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Although I’d seen it before, I sat down with my visitor tonight and watched the 2010 movie “Made in Dagenham”.  It is set in 1968 and tells the true story of the 187 women working at the Ford factory in Dagenham who went on strike due to their workskills being downgraded to unskilled, therefore being paid less.  Women of that era of course were not paid equal pay for equal work and although strikes were quite common in England at the time, it wasn’t women who were usually taking action but their male counterparts.

We see Rita O’Grady, played by Sally Hawkins, start to build her confidence as she falls into unwanted role of spokesperson for the women of the factory.  She is encouraged by Bob Hoskins in the role of Albert, a shop steward, who was raised by his mum and always resented the fact that although she did the same job as the men,  his mother got paid a lot less.  He could see that change was needed and as Rita found her voice, he stood beside her, encouraging her to speak out.

The women were laughed at originally for their actions but over time, people realised they were serious and the strike crippled the Ford Motor co in England at the time.  The story shows the struggles these women went through during this pivotal point in history for women’s rights.  It shows how families coped with what was happening. It showed friends being pitted against each other as tensions ran high and husbands and wives playing the blame game.

As a family, we were affected by strike action when I was only a child.  I don’t think it was connected to this particular stoppage but I don’t remember enough to understand what it was about.  I do know that we went without wages for I think around 7 weeks when my father was on strike along with his fellow workers at the Ford Factory in Geelong. I can remember the tension in the house at that time.  I can remember it being a particularly hard time.  I empathised with the characters in this movie as that same feeling of despair was prevalent in the mood of this movie, just as it had been in our house in the 1960s.  I felt the same confusion in the pit of my stomach as I did as a child, not understanding what was going on, but knowing that it was pretty bad.  For that feeling alone, I think the director got this movie right.

It is a really well acted, scripted and directed film.  The sound track is just brilliant if you grew up with that music or even if you didn’t.  It runs you through a gamut of emotions, laughter, sadness, anger, despair, hope and triumph.  All in all, it’s a wonderful movie. The trip back in time with mix masters, clothes, make up, cars, music, retro wall clocks and all sorts of 60s memorabilia brings back a plethora of memories.  This was a real step back to my youth.

When I first hired this movie, I didn’t know anything  about this time in history although I was 7 when it all happened.  I had no idea what amazing women these were.  I have been completely thankless when I should have been praising these women who irrevocably changed women’s rights forever, both in England and around the world.

This movie, in my opinion should be shown to young girls everywhere so they can understand what their mothers & grandmothers had to endure to make this world a better place for their female offspring.  We take so much for granted, even if we’ve lived through this era.  We often forget how hard these times were.  We have gotten used to the rights (not privileges) we now have and have forgotten a time where a woman was worth a lot less than her male counterpart in the workforce, regardless of the work she did.  A time when a woman’s role in life was to submit to her husband.  A time when women really were second class citizens in the eyes of the law.

We cannot let their efforts be forgotten.  Oh I know not everyone likes the unions and over the years, they have occasionally given people reason to hate them but without them, we wouldn’t have the working conditions we do now. In one of the classic union movies, How Green Was My Valley, the minister played by Walter Pidgin said, “First have your union.  You need it.  Alone you are weak.  Together you are strong.  But remember with strength goes responsibility, to others and to yourselves.” I think sometimes those who have never experienced the disparity that once existed in working situations, don’t understand nor even try to, those who fought  before them to make their lives easier and assist in their ignorance.

This movie in my opinion is right up there with Norma Rae and How Green was My Valley in showing how hard our forebears fought for those things we take for granted. There is nothing I can find fault in with this movie.  It is a must see movie and good for both sexes.  The costuming is great and really does take you back to a time when hair was higher, skirts were shorter, music was better and tv’s were easier to set up.

As an historical piece of work, this movie shines.   It really comes into it’s own as a social commentary of the time. Although I lived through this era, albeit too young to remember lots about it (I love it when I can say too young and mean me) there were so many things I had forgotten.  Most of all, it’s a huge reminder of how far the rights of women have come in the last 50 years.

Break out the popcorn and watch this movie.  I’m sure you’ll love it.  A few things to watch for? At the end, don’t switch straight off.  You will see the real women who fought to win this particular battle.  Older but still as gutsy.  There are some old pieces of footage of the time, interspersed with the new film and if like me, the guy who played Connie’s husband looks familiar to you…… think  Owen in The Vicar of Dibley.  All in all, in my opinion, a briliant movie.

Happy viewing… Livvy 🙂

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Made in Dagenham