|The Peaky Blinders Women off to listen to Jessie Eden|
Publicity round the series suggests Eden has been brought in as a possible love interest for Cillian Murphy's character Tommy. Given the show's track record with its female characters, I think we can hope for something closer to the actual Jessie Eden, who is something of a Brummie, and certainly a trade union, hero. She was born in 1902 and, when we meet her challenging Tommie about female pay in 1925, was actually working at the Joseph Lucas Motor Components Factory where she was a shop-steward for the Transport and General Workers' Union. At the time of the General Strike in 1926, the percentage of unionised women at the factory was tiny and completely over-shadowed by the 10,000 non-unionised women, nevertheless Eden marched the women in her section out to join the strike.
|Tanks in the General Strike - Daily Mirror|
|The young Jessie Eden|
Jessie Eden was a champion of social justice her whole life. She was a key figure in the 1939 Birmingham Rent Strike which brought 49,000 tenants out on strike, successfully winning them rent control in the council and private sector. She stood for the Communist Party in the 1945 General Election and led a march against the Vietnam War in Birmingham in 1969. Graham Stephenson, whose website is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in Eden and union/Communist politics, knew Eden in later life and described her in a recent Guardian interview: "People say that in her prime she was an electrifying speaker, who poured out words from the heart without notes and whose confidence in victory was contagious." That's a tribute I'm sure most of us would love to have and hopefully Peaky Blinders is set to give us a deeper flavour of this woman whose actions made such a difference to the women around her, women who she fought to see treated with dignity, equality and respect. Somehow the time for remembering her seems right.