Crystal Lee Sutton grew up in a mill town in North Carolina. The J.P. Stevens & Company owned seven textile factories in Roanoke Rapids, as well as most of the housing stock in Crystal’s neighborhood. Her parents and grandparents all worked for the company, and Crystal’s high school offered classes in weaving and loom repair. She wanted out, but started her first job at one of the mills when she was in 11th grade.
Fifteen years later a representative from the Textile Workers Union of America showed up where Crystal was working, and the mother of three became an activist and organizer.
Sally Field portrays a character based on Crystal in NORMA RAE (1979, directed by Martin Ritt). This weekend, labor communications expert Laureen Lazarovici, and the treasurer/chief-of-staff for SEIU United Service Workers West Alejandra Valles will speak at a UCLA Film and Television Archive screening of the film.*
(Jonathan Demme’s SWING SHIFT (1984) will screen as the second half of a double bill. Both films will be projected in 35mm.)
NORMA RAE, Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 pm.
BILLY WILDER THEATER, Hammer Museum, 1 Wilshire Boulevard, Westwood, Los Angeles.
*SEIU is the Service Employees International Union.
Above: Crystal Lee Sutton. Photograph by Karen Tam.
Below: Sally Field and Sutton at a J.P. Stevens Boycott Benefit in 1980.