Crystal Lee Sutton died Sept. 11, 2009 in Burlington, N.C. She was 68. Who was she?
Her story is familiar if you saw the movie Norma Rae. Ms. Sutton was the real life person who became known as Norma Rae. I cannot speak about the movie because I never saw it. My excuse is that I had lived it once and do not want to relive it. I kissed off the cotton mills in 1967 and will not go back.
Ms. Sutton was a heroine whether she liked it or not. Defying management in a cotton mill is worse that just asking to get fired. It usually means you will have trouble getting work elsewhere seemingly forever. News travels fast in a small textile town.
Here is the short version of her story. She stood up to cotton mill management and supported a union and was fired. Eventually, she got her job back, but by then she had moved on with her life and returned only briefly. The movie version of a book written about her saga made the name Norma Rae famous, and to a limited extent she gained notoriety but never profited from it greatly. Ms. Sutton had her ups and downs with family and work like so many southern women.
She died of brain cancer but not before winning a battle with her insurance company over coverage of a treatment regimen. It is my loss that I never met her.
"It is not necessary I be remembered as anything, but I would like to be remembered as a woman who deeply cared for the working poor and the poor people of the U.S. and the world." (Crystal Lee Sutton, 2008 quote from a local newspaper.)