Sarah Chapman and Matchstick Girls History: Enola Holmes 2 True Story Explained


Enola Holmes 2 is currently streaming on Netflix ( Source : looper )

Sarah Chapman, one of the Match Girls Strike's organizers in 1888, served as the model for the character of Sarah in Enola Holmes 2.

The Matchgirls' Strike in Enola Holmes 2 is based on a true historical incident; however, Sherlock Holmes' younger sister was not a part of the actual strike.

Enola Holmes 2 is a masterful blend of the wit and ingenuity we've come to expect from this franchise with the history of the Match Girls' Strike and Sarah Chapman. The social unrest rumbling through London's streets is explored through the fictionalization of a period of history that is typically ignored.

It also serves as a reminder that we are stronger as a group in a world where many people are still banding together to fight for their rights, whether through unions or protests. 

If you haven't seen the sequel yet, be warned that there will be spoilers.

Matchstick Girls History: Who Is Sarah Chapman In Enola Holmes 2?

The Matchgirls' Strike actually happened, and Sarah Chapman is a real person from history.

In truth, the matchgirls' strike was about much more than phosphorous poisoning; it was also about the unforgiving and terrible working circumstances they endured. 

Sarah Chapman, a dancer, and matchstick maker is missing in Enola Holmes 2. Bessie, she sister, is concerned about her and requests Enola's assistance in finding her. Poor Enola is just two seconds from leaving her detective agency as Bessie arrives with a request.

She eventually finds out that Chapman had uncovered proof that the health risks associated with the use of phosphorus in matchmaking were being concealed. In her desperation to tell the world the truth, Chapman was hidden from her former employers while she looked for a way to get in touch with Lord Tewkesbury, who had acquired a reputation as a great reformer.

Sarah Chapman was one of the leaders of the Bryant & May Matchgirls' strike.
Sarah Chapman was one of the leaders of the Bryant & May Matchgirls' strike. ( Source : romanroadlondon )

Even though Enola and Sherlock Holmes collaborated to solve the case, the evidence was sadly lost; nonetheless, Sarah Chapman did not lose up and ended up calling a strike.

As the movie progresses, Sarah emerges as the detective, master of disguise, and evidence gatherer. Her goal is to reveal a cover-up surrounding her factory's dangerous (and frequently fatal) working conditions.

In order to support her claims and secure justice for the girls who have passed away, Sarah compiles a wide range of data. Sarah would be an excellent choice if Enola wanted to work with another girl to solve mysteries.

Real Life of Sarah Chapman

On October 31, 1862, Sarah Chapman was born. She was the fifth of the couple's seven children, Samuel, a brewer's servant, & Sarah Ann Mackenzie. Chapman spent her early years in Mile End and would spend the rest of her life in London's East End.

By age 19, Sarah was working at Bryant & May as a matchmaker alongside her mother and older sister. By the time of the 1888 strike, Chapman was a long-standing employee of the Bryant & May plant and held a position with a comparable wage.

Sarah married cabinet maker Charles Henry Dearman in December 1891. Sarah Elsie, the first of the couple's six children, was born in 1892. Later, the family relocated to Bethnal Green, where Sarah spent the remainder of her life. In 1922, Charles Henry Dearman passed away.

Matchstick Girls and Phosphorus Poisoning

Women and girls would grab finished matchsticks with their bare hands and put them into boxes, as we witnessed in the exact assembly representation in Enola Holmes 2.

Naturally, being around chemicals resulted in several unpleasant side effects and illnesses specifically related to this line of employment. In the movie, Enola poses as a factory worker and learns that there is a mouth test for the deadly disease typhus.

One 16-year-old was paid just four shillings per week by Bryant & May, a cartel that had established itself in that part of London, just enough for her to buy bread to eat after paying her rent. The biggest danger was a condition known as "phossy jaw," a type of bone cancer brought on by phosphorus exposure.

The phossy jaw was a condition that started with flu-like symptoms & mouth/toothaches after exposure to white phosphorus. These potentially fatal typhus fever symptoms are not unusual. Lord McIntyre and company used typhus as a scapegoat to hide girls' demise at the workplace.

Enola Holmes 2 is partially based on the story of Sarah Chapman
Enola Holmes 2 is partially based on the story of Sarah Chapman ( Source : dmtalkies )
Unfortunately, factories like Bryant & May ignored these significant health issues. Workers claimed that either you rectified the problem on your own (by extracting teeth, etc.) or you would lose your employment.

Another common complaint was foremen deducted to pay for insignificant offenses like talking, dropping matches, and having a "filthy" workspace. As a result of the health risks, rigid workplaces, and fourteen-hour workdays, things reached a breaking point for women in 1888.

Real-Life Event Of Match Girl Strike 

There was a strike at the Bryant & May match factory in 1888, albeit the remainder of the plot's elements—such as the corruption and murders—are made up. It was a result of unfavorable working conditions, such as low pay and heavy fines, and was brought on by the wrongful termination of a worker.

Near the end of Enola Holmes 2, this moment of victory is fictitiously portrayed. Bessie, Enola, and Sarah Chapman encourage the girls to speak up for themselves and leave.

In reality, Annie Besant, a freethinker, and activist, later spoke with workers outside the factory to discover more, and on June 23, she published a piece titled White Slavery in London in The Link. Employees refused to sign statements disputing the charges despite Bryant & May's efforts to force them. Around 1,400 women and girls went on strike on July 5, 1888.

Matchgirls' strike was lead by Sarah Chapman
Matchgirls' strike was lead by Sarah Chapman ( Source : nerdist )

The following day, 200 women marched into Bouverie Street to ask Annie Besant for help. Chapman was one of the three women who met with Besant to ask for her help setting up a special committee.

The women organized open forums, received favorable news attention, and managed to win over several MPs. After meeting with Bryant & May management, Chapman and the strike committee's list of demands was met with support from Toynbee Hall and the London Trades Council.

Following this, the women formed a union (the Union of Women Match Makers), whose first meeting was held at Stepney Meeting Hall on July 27. The committee was chosen with twelve women on it, including Sarah Chapman.

It was the country's biggest union for women. Chapman attended the 1888 International Trades Union Congress in London after being chosen as the Union's first delegate to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Sarah Chapman's Demise Was A Huge Loss To the UK 

At 83, Sarah Chapman passed away in Bethnal Green Hospital on November 27, 1945. Three of her six children survived her. Sarah was interred in a burial that was unmarked in the Manor Park Cemetery alongside five other elderly persons.

Since 2019, The Matchgirls Memorial has worked to raise public understanding of the Matchgirls' Strike and its participants. A memorial gravestone for Sarah Chapman was made possible by donations, and the organization wants to create a statue honoring the strikers and organizers.

A petition was started in 2020 asking for the grave's protection in response to the Manor Park Cemetery's intention to cover Sarah Chapman's grave with a mound. A motion expressing concern over the intended destruction of Sarah Chapman's burial place was submitted to Parliament in July of that year.

A brand-new housing complex in Bow would be named for Sarah Chapman, it was revealed in 2021. English Heritage declared in 2022 that a blue plaque honoring the Matchgirls' Strike would be placed at the location of the former Bryant & May factory in Bow, London.

Some FAQs

Is Enola Holmes 2 real story?

Enola Holmes 2 is partially based on the real life of Sarah Chapman.

Where can I watch Enola Holmes 2?

You can watch Enola Holmes 2 on Netflix.

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