The nail-biting suspense and mysterious intrigue in Sherlock Holmes mysteries are all too real, even if the characters and events in the novels aren’t, but the legendary detective’s kid sister found herself embroiled in a much more true-to-life conflict in her latest outing. It may come as a surprise that many of the events in Enola Holmes 2 are actually more based in fact than fiction. If you’re curious to know more, here’s the true story of the 1888 matchgirls’ strike that inspired Enola Holmes 2’s twist-filled mystery.
Spoiler alert: This post discusses various plot points throughout Enola Holmes 2. In her Netflix sequel, Enola is tasked with finding a missing girl named Sarah Chapman. She learns that Sarah worked at at a match factory, and later in her investigation, finds out Sarah went missing after she discovered the factory began using dangerous white phosphorus in its production process. Once Enola tracks down Sarah and learns the truth, the two women reveal the hazardous conditions of the match factory to the rest of the matchgirls and inspire them to go on strike.
It’s an inspiring scene, and it’s made all the more empowering by the fact that it’s based on real events. Sarah Chapman was a real matchgirl who, in 1888, rallied her coworkers for strike at the Bryant & May factory over meager pay, over-demanding hours, and severe health hazards on the floor.
As depicted in the movie, the matchgirls’ strike protested Bryant & May’s use of white phosphorus in its production line, which was known to be a serious health hazard particularly to the jaw of anyone with prolonged exposure. Enola Holmes 2 interpreted the resulting disease as typhus, but the condition was actually colloquially known as phossy jaw, which was characterized by tooth loss and necrosis of the jaw.
Chapman’s efforts in forming the 1888 strike has been cited as a pivotal moment in the history of workers’ rights and unions. The team behind Enola Holmes 2 made sure to honor Chapman and the matchgirls with a card in the end credits letting viewers know about the true story that inspired the movie.
You might’ve pressed play on Enola Holmes 2 for a thrilling bit of puzzle-solving escapism, but honestly, what makes the movie even more special is how it brings an inspiring true story to life for a whole new generation. Now that you know the truth, you’ll never look at a match the same way again.