Working for Equality: the fight for fair pay and equal rights

April – November 2018, Barking & Dagenham

Focusing on 50 years in the struggle for working women’s rights in Britain, 1918 to 1968, our programme of public events and mobile exhibition will explore changing ideas about the ‘proper place’ for a woman in the 20th century.

Beginning with suffragette equal pay campaigns during the First World War and ending with the Ford Dagenham sewing machinist’s strike that inspired the Equal Pay Act, women factory workers are at the heart of the story.

Developed and delivered in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

Women factory workers in WWI. Photo CC Imperial War Museum.

Women factory workers in WWI. Photo CC Imperial War Museum.

What's on

All are welcome and events are free of charge, although for some you may need to book a place.


Inspiring women from East London’s history

Join us for an entertaining and inspiring evening sharing words of wisdom and stories of courage from local heroes past and present. Find out more about the East End Women's Museum, tell us which women you'd like to celebrate, and find out how you can get involved in our Working For Equality project this summer. Thursday 22 March, 6.30 - 8pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.


Working for Equality Cinema: Norma Rae

Sally Fielding plays North Carolina factory worker Norma Rae Webster in this Academy award-winning film about a woman who discovers her own strength when she takes on the management.  Wednesday 4 April, 6-8pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.


Working for Equality Cinema: Made In Dagenham

Almost 50 years to the day since the landmark sewing machinist’s strike at the Ford plant which inspired the Equal Pay Act watch the film of their story, plus archive footage and interviews. Wednesday 30 May, 6-8pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.


Votes for Women Garden Party

Join us for a garden party marking 90 years since women won the vote at the age of 21. We’ll be celebrating the ‘flappers’ who voted for the first time in 1929 and the young women who followed them by dancing down the decades: watch demonstrations of the charleston, the jitterbug, rock n roll, and the twist, and maybe try some steps yourself! Enjoy some refreshments, make a suffragette sash, and visit our exhibition about women’s fight for equality in the workplace from the suffragettes to the Ford Dagenham strikers.


Girls Do Science Family Day

You might have heard of the ‘munitionettes’ who worked on the assembly line in factories during the First World War, but did you know women worked as scientists too? Our family event celebrates women’s contribution to science, technology, engineering, maths and manufacturing then and now, highlighting role models and exciting innovations along the way. Join us for inspiring talks, games, activities and demonstrations, find out about studying and working in STEM, and visit our mobile exhibition.

Working for Equality Cinema: 9 to 5

The classic 1980 comedy starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin as three working women who live out their fantasies of getting even with their sexist, bullying boss. Wednesday 22 August, 6 - 8pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.


Strong Women Family Day

In 1926 boxer Annie Newton challenged people who said women shouldn’t box by asking if it was “half as hard work as scrubbing floors? Is it any more risky than working in a munitions factory?” Our family event celebrates strong women and girls past and present: from Annie Newton to Nicola Adams, the courage of the suffragettes and the ‘munitionettes’, and every woman who has ever scrubbed a floor. Visit our exhibition and enjoy games and activities, fascinating stories, and demonstrations by sports clubs.


Working for Equality Cinema: Hidden Figures

The inspiring story of a team of African-American mathematicians at NASA during the early 1960s who overcome the prejudice and discrimination of their colleagues, the company, and the law to achieve their goals. Wednesday 3 October, 6 – 8pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.

Women of colour in UK labour history: film screening and panel discussion

Join us for a documentary screening about the 1976 Grunwick Strike, which was led largely by migrant women workers of South Asian origin. The film will be followed by a panel discussion about the often overlooked contribution of WOC in labour history, as well as interactions of race, class, and gender in industrial action and activism. Thursday 18 October, 7– 9pm, Barking Learning Centre, Free.

Get involved 

If you would like to volunteer as part of Working For Equality, share some of your memories of working in a factory in Barking & Dagenham, or get involved in any other way please contact us using this form.


'Women's work'

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the famous strike by women sewing machinists at the Ford motor factory in Dagenham which inspired the Equal Pay Act. The 1968 strike was a major milestone in the fight for equal pay and has become a symbol of 20th century women’s activism, as well as a source of local pride in the borough of Barking & Dagenham and in east London more widely.

However, there’s an untold story of working women’s activism which can be traced back from that event over the previous five decades, to the end of the First World War and another women’s rights milestone: the Representation of the People Act, which awarded women over 30 the right to vote. Our project focuses on women’s factory histories in Barking and Dagenham and explores the threads connecting the suffragettes to the Ford strikers.

Starting with suffragette equal pay campaigns and the wartime ‘munitionettes’ who found themselves pushed out of ‘men’s jobs’ in 1918, there is a visible pattern in this 50 year window: women factory workers were hailed as heroic in wartime, but in peacetime met intense pressure from politicians, employers, and union leaders to go ‘back to the home’. It didn’t matter if it was their home or someone else’s; in 1920 benefit sanctions were introduced for women who turned down a job in domestic service.

Although women contributed to the war effort in the 1910s and the 1940s as engineers, chemical analysts, and industrial physicists, in peacetime they were steered away from skilled, technical, and management roles towards dull, repetitive work on the assembly line, routinely faced sexual harassment and discrimination (which was even worse for women of colour), were expected to resign or were dismissed when they got married or became pregnant, and were paid half a man’s wages to boot.

Despite this, factory work offered successive generations of young working class women freedom and camaraderie, as well as opportunities to agitate for better pay and conditions. 

About the project


Our project will explore changing ideas about the ‘proper place’ for a woman and celebrate the economic, cultural, and political contribution of women factory workers.

With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund we will create a mobile exhibition, put on a range of accessible public events, run workshops with local schools, and collect oral histories from women in the area. Volunteers from the local area will help to shape the exhibition and receive training in oral history, archive research, or heritage interpretation skills.


The East End Women’s Museum is a public history project aiming to record, share, and celebrate women’s stories and voices from east London’s history. The project was established in 2015 in response to the 'Jack the Ripper Museum', as a positive, sustainable protest.

Eastside Community Heritage was established in 1993 as part of the Stratford City Challenge community history project and became an independent charity in 1997. Over the years, Eastside have worked with over 900 community groups, produced over 100 exhibitions, and created the East London Peoples Archive which contains over 3500 oral histories.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow HLF on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.