Welcome to the Crystal Sutton Collection

Crystal Lee Sutton is the woman on whom the Oscar®-winning movie Norma Rae was based.

Sutton’s role in the history of labor is assured. In the early 1970s, Crystal Lee was 33 and working at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., where she was making $2.65 an hour folding towels. The poor working conditions she and her fellow employees suffered compelled her to join forces with Eli Zivkovich, a union organizer, and attempt to unionize the J.P. Stevens employees.

“Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy,” said Crystal. She received threats and was finally fired from her job. But before she left, she took one final stand, filmed verbatim in the 1979 film Norma Rae. “I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word UNION on it in big letters, got up on my work table, and slowly turned it around. The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet…”   More >

Crystal and Sally
Crystal Sutton with actress Sally Field who played Norma Rae, at a Hollywood labor benefit.

Real-Life Norma Rae Dies After Long Illness

"We admire her courage, we admire her convictions, and we admire her spirit. She is a champion not only of the working class but also of all who inspire to improve the lives of others." – Dr. Martin H. Nadelman, President of Alamance Community College.

The words describe Crystal Lee Sutton, the woman on whom the Oscar-winning movie Norma Rae starring Sally Field was based. She died on Sept. 11 following a long illness.

Dr. Nadelman made the comments about Sutton in June 2007 when she chose Alamance Community College as the repository for her historic unionization papers. Following the incidents depicted in the movie Norman Rae, Sutton became a nationally-recognized union organizer and public speaker.   More >

Crystal and Sally

Learn More About Crystal Sutton
Read More About Crystal Collection Gallery 'Norma Rae' The Movie
Read More About Crystal
Read more about Crystal Sutton in her biography.
Collection Gallery
View the items Crystal has collected over the years.
'Norma Rae' The Movie
Get information about the inspired movie and watch brief videos from the movie.