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Record revealed

A letter by the women workers at Fords of Dagenham

This handwritten letter was sent to the Prime Minister by sewing machinists at Dagenham car plant in the late 1960s, who were on strike for equal pay. It is collectively signed by the ‘women workers at Fords of Dagenham’.

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Handwritten note written slightly askew in blue ink.


Women Workers of Fords

June 1968

Dear Mr Wilson,

You can call all the enquiries you wish we women at fords have the backing of a great number of M.P’s, we will not go back to work, we are fighting a great fight equal pay for women, we at Fords have started the ball rolling our unions are backing us, funds are coming in we’re all set for battle, Fords is the beginning, soon it will be every industry in Britain out because of us women of Fords, we will force you to give us all equal pay, or strike with our unions

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Handwritten note written slightly askew in blue ink.


blessings, we’re sorry for Fords, sorry for the men out of work but more sorry for ourselves its all for us now. Some women may be hard up we’ll help them from our growing funds, make no mistake most of us have husbands still working thats why we can fight you all, we are only our own money short, we will live. Give us what we want, not only us at Fords all Women everywhere, we refuse to go back, so what can you and the government & Mrs Castle & Jack Scamp do.

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Note written slightly askew in blue ink.


Nothing I mean nothing, we are sitting pretty our unions are backing us. Show this to Barbara, we don’t care M.P’s are with us, soon everyone will be with us we will make Fords shut down completely, who cares we dont.

Women Workers at Fords of Dagenham.

Give us what our unions demand equal pay.

Why this record matters

Date: June to July 1968

Catalogue reference: PREM 13/2412

This letter offers a unique first-hand perspective into the demands of the women sewing machinists at Fords of Dagenham. The action began on 7 June 1968, when 187 women walked out of Ford’s Dagenham plant, led by several workers: Rose Boland, Eileen Pullen, Vera Sime, Gwen Davis and Sheila Douglass.

The women were not asking directly for equal pay – they were asking that their technical skills used to make seat covers be ranked at the same grade as their fellow male workers. In their handwritten letter, they collectively articulate their demands and detail the support they had from unions and MPs, stating they were ‘all ready for battle’. The workers saw themselves as ‘fighting a great fight, equal pay for women’.

The letter survives in Prime Minister’s Office files on the subject, and sits alongside fraught letters and telegrams, showing how their message reached the heart of government. The women’s actions threatened complete closure of all Ford plants in Britain, impacting the motor industry and the economy.

While these women did not win their specific demands, they increased their rate of pay and succeeded in putting huge pressure on the Wilson government. Their actions acted as a significant catalyst for greater change for ‘all women everywhere’. On the back of the dispute Barbara Castle worked to pass the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which was ultimately limited in scope, but gave hope to women for further future change.