R.I.P. Crystal Lee Sutton


While I and the rest of the world mourn the death of Patrick Swayze, I hope the death of another amazing and important figure in American history doesn’t slip through the cracks. Today the AP is reporting the death of Crystal Lee Sutton, labor organizer and activist for the working class, whose story of fighting to unionize textile plants in the South was depicted in the film “Norma Rae.”
From the AP:

In 1973, Sutton was a 33-year-old mother of three earning $2.65 an hour folding towels at J.P. Stevens when a manager fired her for pro-union activity.
In a final act of defiance before police hauled her out, Sutton, who had worked at the plant for 16 years, wrote “UNION” on a piece of cardboard and climbed onto a table on the plant floor. Other employees responded by shutting down their machines.

Even though Sally Field won a best-actress Academy Award for playing the character inspired by Ms. Sutton, the AP reports today that she never made much profit off the movie. I wonder if that was because the film execs didn’t give her her fair due, or because she was too much “of the people” to get rich from the story. Or some other unknown reason.
Either way, she is completely bad-ass and her work is inspirational to me. As a female labor organizer in the 70’s fighting against low pay and poor working conditions for “ordinary people,” both black and white, she was certainly a trailblazer.
May she rest in peace.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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