The Dagenham Women’s Strike of 1968

Striking women machinists from the Ford plant at Dagenham are interviewed by a reporter

Central Press / Getty Images

Nearly 200 female workers walked out of the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham, England, during the summer of 1968, in protest of their unequal treatment. The Dagenham women's strike led to widespread attention and important equal pay legislation in the U.K.

Skilled Women

The 187 Dagenham women were sewing machinists who made seat covers for the many cars produced by Ford. They protested being placed in the union's B grade of unskilled workers when men who did the same level of work were placed in the semi-skilled C grade. The women also received less pay than men, even men who were also in the B grade or who swept the factory floors.

Eventually, the Dagenham women's strike stopped production entirely, since Ford was unable to sell cars without seats. This helped the women and the people watching them realize how important their jobs were.

Union Support

At first, the union did not support the women strikers. Divisive tactics had often been used by employers to keep male workers from supporting an increase in women's pay. The women of Dagenham said that union leaders did not think much about losing a mere 187 women's union dues out of thousands of workers. They remained steadfast, however, and were joined by 195 more women from another Ford plant in England.

The Results

The Dagenham strike ended after Secretary of State for Employment Barbara Castle met with the women and took up their cause to get them back to work. The women were compensated with a fair pay increase, but the re-grading issue was not resolved until after another strike years later. In 1984, they were finally classified as skilled workers.

Working women throughout the U.K. benefited from the Dagenham women's strike, which was a precursor to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The law makes it illegal to have separate pay scales for men and women based on their sex.

Film Adaptation

The film "Made in Dagenham," released in 2010, stars Sally Hawkins as the leader of the strike and features Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Napikoski, Linda. "The Dagenham Women’s Strike of 1968." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Napikoski, Linda. (2021, February 16). The Dagenham Women’s Strike of 1968. Retrieved from Napikoski, Linda. "The Dagenham Women’s Strike of 1968." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).