Jessie Eden Was A Real Person So 'Peaky Blinders' Is Paying Tribute To A Hero Of The Labor Movement
The third season of Peaky Blinders revealed that Thomas Shelby was marrying Grace Burgess, the former government agent and longtime love interest for the tough. But in Peaky Blinders Season 4, a new woman will come into Thomas' life. And unlike some of the show's other characters, Jessie Eden is a real person whose actual history makes her totally worthy of a TV portrayal. The Shelby family are fictional, but their gang and lots of the surrounding atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Birmingham, Ireland, are based on real people, places, and events.
Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight told The Guardian that he was inspired by Eden's real story. "So much of history concentrates on the memoirs of some politician or other," Knight said. "Being female and working class there was very little prospect that she would become a household name, but she did extraordinary things." Some of those extraordinary things include being a big part of the 1926 General Strike, a labor movement that, according to the BBC, saw over a million and a half workers from dozens of industries strike in solidarity with miners who were locked out of their mines because they wanted higher wages and better conditions.
The strike quickly turned into an armed conflict, and, frankly, was unsuccessful — the miners were unable to get better conditions and "sympathy strikes" were made illegal, per the BBC. But organizers like Eden, who saw how poorly laborers was treated, were able to get better conditions for workers in subsequent years with their hard work and advocacy. And Eden herself once recalled her experiences on the front lines of that protest, according to The Guardian, saying, "One policeman put his hands on my arms. They were telling me to go home, but the crowd howled… 'Hey, leave her alone…' and some men came and pushed the policemen away... I was never frightened of the police or the troops because I had the people with me, you see."
According to The Birmingham Mail, the strike will be a significant part of Peaky Blinders Season 4, and Tommy Shelby will clash at first with Eden, who'll be played by Charlie Murphy on the series, as the labor organizer and a factory owner naturally won't see eye to eye. "It’s always been my intention to tackle the 1926 general strike as it was a time when the possibility of a genuine revolution was in the air," Knight said to The Guardian in the aforementioned piece. "Birmingham has always been a very radical, very unionized, very leftwing city so it was important for us to have someone on the show who represents that."
And while Peaky Blinders is introducing Eden when she's a shop steward, just five years later, she would become an organized labor legend, particularly working on behalf of women. "The greatest achievement in Jessie’s life was in virtually founding mass trades unionism for women in Britain," The Mirror reported. "In January 1931, she successfully led the ten thousand non-unionized women at the giant Lucas plant out on strike for a whole week, almost entirely by her remarkable gifts of oratory."
"To the very end her one true love seems to have been justice, fairness and equality. She comes across as a very inspirational person to be around and I’m sure that rubbed off on so many people," Murphy told The Guardian.
Ultimately, including Jessie Eden in Peaky Blinders Season 4 will help more people get to know this less-known figure. Knight said to The Birmingham Mail, "There’s very little you can find out about her, there are just fragments, but she was a fascinating woman."