The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Hello Readers,

I listened to this book in December last year and I will put my hands up and say I was wrong about the five. I was part of the group who would state “they were prostitutes.”

In fact, Mary Ann, Polly- Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine- Kate- Eddowes could not be prostitutes the term can only be used for Mary Jane Kelly but that doesn’t mean she deserved her fate. The Five points out there is little to no evidence suggests that the other four participated in the sex trade at all. Even in 2024 we still feed off the narrative that the newspapers immortalised back in 1888 thanks to the attitudes towards 'down on their luck' women in the Victorian era and the rumour mill.

What we are reminded of in this book is that these women were just not the five. These women were mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, and wives. I love how Hallie tells the story of each woman separately so these women can finally be given the time and respect they deserve. Each of the women’s stories overlap in many ways they all had hard lives, bad luck, and little choice or opportunity to change their circumstances. Sadly, alcoholism dominates their lives and so does the obstacles and limitations that Victorian women faced.

Their lives have sadly been reduced to very little other than then five murder victims of Jack. Just because of the sensationalism surrounding the Jack the Ripper, the legend that was born and because they were thought of as ‘just prostitutes’. It is time we left behind this judgement in the Victorian era. I loved that Hallie didn't dedicate any time to describing the murders of these women and didn’t dehumanise them further.  

These women have been little more than numbers in a sequence for little over a century. It’s a bleak and sad read, but so incredibly informative and well-researched This is a wonderful educational book, depicting real history and enlightening people on the lives of women at the time. This book is not about Jack the Ripper and there are no theories tossed about as to his identity. Hallie instead tells the story of these forgotten women and I think has made an attempt to restore their dignity. With this book Hallie has given Mary Ann, Polly- Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine- Kate- Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly lives and their identities back.

L x