Creating Norma Rae: Cultural Contests over the American Working Class, 1970s-1980s
under contract with University of North Carolina Press
This project centers the 1979 film Norma Rae to demonstrate how the larger society, through capitalist means of cultural production, erases diverse women workers; reconstructs narratives of labor that are infused with the notion of an American working class that is white, native-born, and industrial; and serves the neoliberal political economy.
Starting at the turn of the twentieth century, U.S. and insular government offices with textile and garment businesses incorporated women of the New South and Puerto Rico into manufacturing in distinct yet interrelated ways. Gloria Maldonado and Crystal Lee Sutton each became active with her local union in the 1970s. Despite such complexities, however, a popular fascination with poor white southerners led commercial media to focus on Sutton.