March 2nd, 2013
On the weekends during NWHM, I tend to post maybe more controversial figures to the list of women. Controversial because they’re more artist: actor, singer, the like, than academic, which is where many writers can be categorized. I still try to focus on women who have truly made a difference, in some way, shape, or form, though.
My Dad has a huge crush on Sally Field. No lie. He will watch any movie she’s in. I doubt he’d leave my Mom for her, even if she would leave him for Bruce Springsteen, but still, Sally Field is his celebrity crush.
I don’t know if that came about before or after the film Norma Rae. You see, my Dad was a Building Steward for CWA when he worked for Southwestern Bell. He was one of the better ones, vocal in his organizing. I’m not sure if my Mom as a member of the union before they met, but I’d be willing to bet so, so I grew up as a union kid, and I know very well what they’ve done for me and for the middle class of this country.
I think that’s why I try to dedicate my time to the union efforts, why I’m drawn to them. Though, this post is not about me, this is about Sally Field and Crystal Lee Sutton.
Sally Field has created some of the best loved characters on both the small screen and in movie roles. From Gidget to Norma Rae to M’Lynn, she has lit up the screen and made us laugh, cry, and root for a “Bandit”.
Yet, she still champions women’s health and women’s rights, including using her “pulpit” during her 2007 Emmy win to state, “If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no wars in the first place!” even though the U.S. audience watching at home didn’t see the entire quote. (It was censored, but played around the world.)
Most notably, Sally Field works to gain awareness of osteoporosis, and considering that my mother’s own form of arthritis is as yet, technically unclassified, but relates most commonly to osteoarthritis, I am grateful. Many women do not understand how much osteoporosis can affect them as they age, nor are there people that champion the far less sexy health risks that are especially dangerous for women, like heart problems (which kill more women than breast cancer) or things like osteoporosis.
Additionally, Sally Field uses her time to fight on behalf of the LGBT community for Equal Rights.
Yet, when she played Norma Rae, she did so in a field that was largely unionized in an environment where unions were largely more accepted.
It was Crystal Lee Sutton, not Sally Field (or Norma Rae) that should get the kudos for standing on a work bench, after writing “UNION” on a piece of cardboard and waiting for each and every machine and worker to stop and look at her. This act immortalized on film by Sally, was completely true, and Sutton paid dearly for it, by also being arrested and then, being fired for her attempts to unionize the J.P. Stevens textile factory she worked at under the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union.
(I can’t find the entire scene anywhere that I can embed it. But here’s a link to it, and everyone should watch the powerfulness of the ENTIRE scene.)
Until you work for a union, you have no idea how much strength it takes for an employee to not just stand up and say, “I can’t take it anymore, I quit”, but to go further and say, “I can’t take it anymore, this is completely unfair and we need to work to change the system.” it’s incredibly rare, especially when you’re going against the grain. It’s rare to watch or see people willing to sacrifice their own comfort, their own home life to make a difference, not just for themselves, but for their fellow workers.
Crystal Lee Sutton deserves to be remembered, for doing just that.
(Shameless plug and request for recommendations for women to feature.)