Sally Hawkins is just plain irresistible in this funny, touching and vital salute to women in the work force. Calling Made in Dagenham the British Norma Rae gets at the core but not the warm, beating heart of this fact-based tale of a 1968 strike of female employees for pay parity with men at the Ford Motor plant in Dagenham, England. Working with a script by William Ivory, director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) creates a vivid sense of time and place even when the plot runs out of surprises. Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) plays Rita O’Grady, the wife and mother who becomes the unlikely voice for the women car upholsterers in her sweatshop who resent being classified and paid as “unskilled” labor. Rita’s union rep (Bob Hoskins) prods her to take on the top brass, and Hawkins reveals the warrior inside. Though the strike puts her at odds with her husband (the excellent Daniel Mays), Rita’s fight against the sexist attitudes of the era bonds her closer to her own sex, including Lisa Hopkins (a stellar Rosamund Pike), the Cambridge-educated wife of one of the male pigs. Ultimately, Rita and her newborn firebrands are granted a meeting with government minister Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), and progress ensues. Richardson is sensational and then some in a movie you can’t help cheering.