Essex 1968. Like millions of other working women, each morning Rita O’Grady is just trying to get her husband out of bed, get the kids off to school and get to work at the factory on time. But life is about to change forever when it’s announced that the girls in the stitching room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant will have their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’. Quickly drawing on a strength she never knew she had, Rita leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them. As the girls’ inspiring journey gets bigger than anyone could have imagined, the pressure is too much for some, but can Rita keep up the fight and the happy home she’s worked so hard for?
Funny, touching and timeless, Made in Dagenham shows how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they stand together.
Based on the 2010 film of the same name, Made in Dagenham is drawn from the real-life 1968 sewing machinists strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, Essex. This strike was influential in the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The musical focuses on the leader of the strike, Rita O’Grady, as she encourages the women of the Ford factory to walk out after they are re-classified as unskilled workers, while their male counterparts see their wages increase. After Rita is patronized and snubbed by the factory at a union meeting, the women’s grievances over their worker status turn into a fight for equal pay. Determined not to be treated like the poor relation, the women vote unanimously to strike (“Everybody Out”) and encourage the women at the Liverpool factory to strike also. However when the American bosses fly in and lay off 5,000 men as a result, including Rita’s husband Eddie,cracks begin to show in the women’s solidarity. Risking her marriage and friendships, Rita continues her efforts for equality and gives a rousing speech at a televised Trade Union Conference (“Stand Up”), leading to the passing of equal pay within the union. As Eddie finally recognizes his wife’s achievements, the women celebrate their life-changing success.