Final Blog: Peaky Blinders and Its Women

Shelby Family (from left to right). Esme Shelby and her husband John Shelby, Ada Thorne, Finn Shelby, Thomas ‘Tommy” Shelby, Elizabeth “Polly” Gray, Michael Gray, Arthur Shelby and his wife Linda Shelby.

Peaky Blinders is a TV series that takes places in an industrial Birmingham, England after the end of WW1. The story is about the ascension of a gang called the Peaky Blinders led by Thomas Shelby and his family. The gang is known to cut their enemies’ eyes with razors blades hidden in the peak of the caps, thus the name of Peaky Blinders. Going from practicing basic racketing and illegal sports gambling in the Small Heath district in Birmingham to running the gang as multi-millionaire company with business partners such as Al Capone, we assist to the clever ways Tommy tries to quench his ever growing ambition thirst no matter what it takes.

With the clothes, cars, types of guns, and the many factories darkening the sky with their smoke, the show makes a good job at making us feel the Great War aftermath; not only with the visuals, but also with the particular socio-political context of that time. Indeed, the setting in which the Blinders live evolves season after season with the occurrence of new events/periods influence the game such as the The Prohibition or the Great Crash of 1929, and the apparition of new actors as time passes such as the Communists, the Unionists, the Italian mafia, the Irish Republican Army, the Russians Royalists, Nazis and Fascists towards the last season, as well as the Feminists.

The Great War aftermath was an important period for women. The contribution and sacrifices of women were really appreciated during the war. Before the war, the suffragettes were actively fighting for women’s rights, especially when it came for the right to vote, and their efforts were concretized in 1918, in the final year of the war with the Representation of the People Act of 1918 that allowed women over 30 who were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register. In November 1918, women over 21 were also finally allowed to be elected as member of Parliament under the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act of 1918. Then, in December 1919, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 became law; it allowed women to enter professions such as in law and in civil services as well as allowing the universities to admit women to degrees [1][2].

Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy)

Already at the beginning of the 1920s, women’s’ situation improved significantly compared to before the war. Yet, there was still a lot of work to do; married women were still not allowed to work, not all women were able to vote yet and there were still jobs women could not do, such as diplomacy. In the TV series, Jessie Eden was portrayed as one of the women who was leading the fight for women’s emancipation, and better treatment of the working people in Birmingham. This character is inspired by the real Jessie Eden that lived in Birmingham during the same time. She was affiliated with the communist party and she lead the women in her section during the General Strike of 1926[3]. In the series, her confidence and her power is shown whenever she confronts Tommy without being the most powerful individual of the city. She fights for what she believes in and nobody is going to stop her. Even the women of the Shelby family, strong women too, are in some way fascinated by her confidence and her absence of fear in front of adversity.

What makes the show series great is complexity of each character in the series. They all have their distinctive personality and they all face their own challenges. The women in Peaky Blinders are all portrayed as strong figures.

Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis)

One of them is Grace Burgess. She appeared in the first season of the show as a simple Irish women who showed up at The Garrison Pub, a bar that is often frequented by the Peaky Blinders, to get the job of a barmaid. She was turned down at first but her singing talents won the landlord over who gave her the job. At their first encounter, Tommy and she were already intrigued by each other. It was indeed hard to understand why such a well-behaved, educated women would want to come to Birmingham to work in such a pub. Well, it turns out that she was actually working for the Birmingham police as an undercover agent and her job was to investigate the Shelby family. In the end, she managed to gain Tommy’s full trust, which is hard to get, and he even offered her a job to keep the records of the Shelby Company Limited. Even the mastermind of the Shelby empire did not see through her, Tommy actually developed feelings for her. She discovered incriminating information on the actions of the company, that she gave to the inspector on the case, Inspector Campbell. Yet, as Tommy fell in love with her, she also fell in love with him; she actually managed to protect the Shelby family. Another example of someone, that fights for what, or who, they believe in.

Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle)

An another woman that has an impact in the show is Ada Thorne (born Shelby). She is the forth and the only female of the Shelby siblings. At the beginning of the series, she is in a secret relationship with Freddie Thorne, an old friend of Tommy and also a Communist agitator. As Freddie is chased by the police from Birmingham because of his actions, and Ada is found pregnant with Freddie’s child. Her Aunt Polly (we will come to her), was about the bring her to Cardiff to get an abortion, yet Freddie proposes to her, and they get married. Tommy was against this relationship, as he was uncertain for Ada safety; he even threatened Freddie, yet their romantic relationship did not end. Like the other women described, she is not afraid to do what she believes is correct and just. She is a strong women and she is able to stand for herself. One her iconic scene is when the Peaky Blinders were about to fight a rival gang, the Birmingham Boys, which would have resulted in a bloodshed, and she just walk with her baby in the No Man’s Land; she managed to convince all the men not to kill each other as she said that she and her baby would stay in the middle; she made them think of the people that are waiting for them to come home. Bold move we can say, but it actually worked. Another iconic scene is when she invites Jessie Eden to have a drink, yet the bars did not allow women at the time. It didn’t matter, she went to the bar with Jessie and they both drank their whisky and pint of beer respectively as they discussed important matters.

Polly Gray (Helen McCrory)

And the woman with the most influence in the show is Polly Gray (Aunt Polly). She is the matriarch of the Shelby family, and as she says it, she is the “heart of the family”. She is the one who took care of her nephews (Tommy’s siblings) after their mother died and their father left them. When the boys went to France to fight in the war, she is the one that took care of the Blinders. When the boys came back and took control, she still held an important place in the company as she is the only one in which Tommy confides in. It is evident that he needs her help and advice to be able to run the company and the Peaky Blinders. At the same time, she is also the treasurer of the company. She is also present on Ada’s life as she helps her with her baby, and gives her life advices. Also, Polly is the one that managed to reconcile Tommy and Ada as she married Freddie. She is a smart, strong independent women; she does not hesitate to do what she thinks is best for her family and herself. Throughout the show she goes through challenges and difficult times, especially when it comes to her son Michael, which proves that she puts her family before her. She is the proof that a woman can also be a leader, especially for her time.

There are a lot more strong feminine figures in the show that I did not name in this article like Lizzie Stark, who deserves a honorable mention; I’ll let you discover her and how important she is, on your own. The complexity of the characters is what makes to show so good and the strong presence of women is not only a plus, but also an important aspect of the TV show. I hope I did a good job in introducing this series to you, and I hope you will enjoy it.

Written by Dan Pasconi

Blog 4: Joanne Chory

Joanne Chory is an American geneticist and plant biologist. She was born on March 19th, 1955 in Boston, Massachusetts and she still has not stopped working. Chory is currently a director and professor at the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute For Biological Studies, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Throughout her career, she did many studies on the growth of plants and their behavior in different conditions for which she received many prizes and distinctions. Indeed, in 2011, she became an elected Royal Society foreign member; more recently, she received the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2019 Princess of Asturias Award.

The research she is now leading has the potential to implement a solution that will slow the climate change. As human activity considerably increased the quantity of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, leading to a general increase of the planet’s temperature, Chory and her team at the Salk Institute found a way to make plants absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere and make the soil more fertile at the same time.

The process consists in making the roots of the plant grow bigger through genetic modification. The bigger the roots, the more the plant can absorb bury carbon in the ground in the from of suberin, a substance naturally rich in carbon that prevents water losses from the plant tissues as well as it protects against potential diseases and heals plant wounds.

This discovery can be crucial for agriculture as it would mean that we could grow crops more efficiently while considerably decreasing the concentration of the major greenhouse gas. It would help solving the problem of feeding of the rapidly increasing world population and the problem of climate change at once.

The research is indeed very admirable; however, Chory’s determination and contribution to the field is even more respectable.

In 2004, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The biologist lived now over a decade of struggle with the disease; she managed to reduce its effect with the help of medications and a brain implant and she is still continuing her research.

While there are many activists that encourage us to change our habits, that organize protests to encourage that action of governments, Chory’s devotion to stop climate change is extrinsic, tangible. What she has found is a concrete solution to help the world significantly. It really speaks to me since I want to go into the engineering field, and it’s all about solving problems in a tangible way in order to make the world a better place.

Nevertheless, Chory is a biologist and I do not want to be a biologist; my desire is to go in Electrical Engineering. We all have the same problem to solve; however, we took a different path. She uses nature to help nature while I’ll find ways to reduce the ever growing electrical consumption that also affect climate change.

Also, the fact that she may have found a possible solution to a problem that we knew about for over than a century is really inspiring as it tells people, especially those that like science, that they could also be the ones that find solutions like that. The fact that she is women that succeeded in science encourages other women to come in the STEM field.

Joanne Chory is an inspiration for many because she is an example of perseverance for a great cause. She implanted a vision for a better future that will make others follow her lead.

Joanne Chory

Blog 2: Wage Gap

You probably have already heard group a women say ‘equal pay for equal work’ or even ‘stop work discrimination against women’. You also might have heard politicians saying: “for every dollar a man makes, a women makes 77 cents”.

They all refer to the gender pay gap, the fact that working women are paid less than working men. (equal pay for equal work is a bit different)

However, you also might have heard people saying that the wage gap between both genders was a myth since it is illegal to pay someone less based on their gender; maybe you even heard that men work more hours than women, so it is normal that men win more than women.

In Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 states that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, marital status and family status.

Nevertheless, a bit more than 40 years later, some people still fight for this equality, especially in the workforce. So many people seem to have different ideas on the subject that it is almost impossible Is there really a wage gap ? If so, is this gap about purely about discrimination against women? We will find out, but first let’s find out how the wage gap is even calculated.

How Do We Even Calculate the Gender Pay Gap ?

The gender wage gap is often used as an indicator of inequality between men and women. As the Canadian Women’s Foundation [1] states it very well, “[the] gender wage gap is typically measured in three different ways:

  • Compare the annual earnings, by gender, for both full-time and part-time workers. On this basis, women workers in Canada earned an average of 69 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2016.3 This measurement results in the largest wage gap because more women work part-time, and part-time worke[r]s typically earn less than full-time workers.
  • Compare the annual earnings of full-time workers. On this basis, women workers in Canada earned an average of 75 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2016. 4
  • Compare the hourly wages by gender, including those for part-time workers. On this basis, women earned an average of 87 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015.5

No matter which calculation is used, the wage gap clearly exists for women in Canada. “

How Can This Happen ?

The gender wage gap, the difference of remuneration between working men and women, are clearly visible in the statistics. There are so many variables that affect the situation that it is difficult to identify all the causes of the differences between in earnings between men and women.

However, we can see that in every way that the wage gap is calculated it does not take in account the actual job that is done by these individuals. It is known that men tend to be over represented in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) field, jobs that tend to be paid relatively more than the average salary. On the other hand, women tend to be over represented in the social work field, jobs that are generally paid less than those in the STEM field.

Also, men tend to work more hours than their female counterparts as the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics concluded in 2018 [2]. Men worked on average 8.27 hours in an average weekday compared to 7.66 hours for women. Notice that more women work in part-time jobs.

In 2012, the AAUW, a feminist organization published a study that was meant to identify what are the causes of the pay gap between men and women in the US. [3]. It found that the supposed wage gap of 77 percent (in the U.S. at the time) shrinks to 93.4 percent after taking in account hours, occupation, college major, employment sector and other factors associated with pay.

The unexplained could be because of discrimination; however, it is impossible to measure how much it influences the pay gap.

Blog 1: Men Trying to Define Feminism


Even though these two writers have different writing styles, they share similar ideas on what feminism means. The definition of feminism Valenti gave was the one in dictionary: “[belief] in the social, political and economic equality of sexes” (Valenti 6). This broad definition goes with the title of her essay, “You’re a Hardcore Feminist I Swear”, as it tells the reader that he or she is a feminist and does not even know it. Valenti wants women not to be afraid of affirming their feminist views to the world. She takes time to vividly shred the image of stereotypical man-hating, ugly, fat, old feminist in order to show that anybody can be part of this social movement no matter how you look.

On her side, bell hooks defines feminism as a “movement to end sexism, sexual exploitation, and oppression” (hooks 12). She states that not only women can be the victim of sexism, but also men. She also touches the stereotype that feminists angry anti-male women and explains that it is not the case anymore, that there are different types of feminists, a bit like Valenti did. Even though the definitions of both authors are different, they express the same desire of living in a world where men and women can flourish hand in hand. However, as Valenti agrees that feminism is everywhere and people are starting to notice its presence; hooks believes that the feminist movement should reinvent itself because she thinks it has lost its meaning. She wants to reinvigorate the lost meaning of feminism in order to end gender inequality for good.

Feminism is important for these women because for them it is about justice. They feel that something is off, that there is a certain unfairness between the two sexes; they think the way men and women interact is not correct and that it needs to change. Both authors were touched by problems that feminism tries to solve. Valenti had experiences as a child, when her crush told her she had an ugly nose, an experience that made her see that there is an unfairness in the way women’s appearance is a thing that drives a lot of their life. hooks had personal problems in her teenage years as she was depressed and even suicidal. Feminism is what gave her hope for a better world; it gave meaning to her life. She saw the occasion to fight for equality and justice in her community as it was also victim of racism. She desires to see everyone no matter their race and their gender to live equally.


Feminists have themselves different definitions of what is feminism; however, what they all desire is a certain justice between both sexes. They essentially demand that every individual is treated fairly no matter how they look like. I would say that my definition sounds like the one you find in Valenti’s dictionary: “[belief] in the social, political and economic equality of sexes” (Valenti 6). However, like hooks, I think feminist movement should change its approach. The feminism that we knew is less relevant today, because the differences between men and women are, at least in the Occident, harder to see. Men and women are equal, legally speaking; it is stated in the law that no one should suffer discrimination depending on its gender. Especially for men, it is harder to see were the inequalities are. Women have a different perspective and they could easily see what men have to look harder for. For a movement that proclaims to be about solve injustices between men and women, I don’t see a lot of men that call themselves feminists. For a movement that is meant to make the dynamics between men and women more just, I do not see a lot of men that call themselves feminists. Why is that? Feminism is indeed about everybody’s life better, so why don’t call themselves feminists. Is it because these men fear not being able to oppress the woman anymore? That is absurd. Perhaps, it could be that feminism should be portrayed differently to men. The major explanation of why men are not feminists yet is that most men are having a hard time understanding what is feminism really about. We should encourage sexes to often have discussions about what they think gender issues are, so that everybody can have a global perspective about social and gender inequality. Because in order to achieve equality between both sexes, we equally need men and women.

What made me stop in my reading was bell hooks closing statement is the closing statement of bell hooks, because she exactly pulled the words out of my mouth. I think, like her, that feminism is at a point where it should redefine itself in order to end gender inequality once and for all. Essential feminism possesses fundamental values that any individual with a minimal sense of morality also has, such as justice and equity. Like hooks, said we have the definitions, we just have to use them. As I mentioned previously, men have to be engaged in the fight for social equity as much as women do.