Late in the summer of 1888, a serial killer murdered at least five women in London’s East End. The press at the time was quick to paint his victims as prostitutes, punished for their promiscuity.
This series tells the full story that has been glossed over again and again. This isn’t about Jack the Ripper, it’s about the women he killed.
This series of episodes owes an outsized debt to social historian Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper.
Of course the book is brilliantly organized and thoroughly researched, but also it’s a joy to read and that is not often the case with academic writers, but it’s true in Hallie’s case. She gets it right; she gets these women and why their stories matter. It’s Hallie’s research, framing, and arguments that convinced Kaytlin Bailey, host of The Oldest Profession Podcast, to do this series on Jack the Ripper’s victims. So we want to thank Hallie Rubenhold by encouraging you to buy her book, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper.
Whatever you do, don’t just Google “Jack the Ripper’s victims” — trust us on this one, that search leads to dark places.
Description of The Five from the book’s publisher: Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.
What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.
For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that “the Ripper” preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.