JACK THE RIPPER AND HIS KILLINGS MYTHOLOGISED
The murder of five women in Victorian London by Jack the Ripper in the Autumn of 1888 has been largely been mythologised in Western Culture. So much focus has been put on the identity of the killer that the lives of the five women brutally mutilated by the Ripper have been largely forgotten. Hallie Rubenhold in her newly released book ‘The Five’ sheds light on these forgotten victims and their lives.
WHO IS HALLIE RUBENHOLD?
Hallie Rubenhold is an author, social historian and historical consultant who lives with her husband in London.(1) She completed her PhD at Leeds University writing on the subject of marriage and child-rearing in the eighteenth century. Her previous books include The French Lesson (2016), The Covent Garden Ladies(2005), which inspired the ITV series Harlots, and Lady Worsley’s Whim(2008), which was adapted into The Scandalous Lady W for BBC Two. (2)
WHY DID RUBENHOLD WRITE ABOUT THE FIVE WOMEN KILLED BY JACK THE RIPPER?
Rubenhold states to historyextra the BBC’s online history magazine, (who interviewed Rubenhold) that she wrote ‘The Five’, “Because it is virtually untold. For many, Jack the Ripper is just a bit of fun. They enjoy dressing up as him for Halloween or laughing and screaming when he jumps out at the London Dungeon, but they don’t really take on board the victims and their experiences. To most people, the women Jack the Ripper killed are just corpses”.(3) Up until Rubenhold’s book was released in 2019 little, if nothing was known of the five women who so infamously died by the hands of the Ripper.
HOW DID RUBENHOLD RECREATE THE LIVES OF WOMEN WHO LIVED 130 YEARS AGO?
This book is painstakingly researched. Rubenhold went through public records to recreate the lives of the “The Five.” You can tell that this was not just a book for Rubenhold but also a mission to ‘clear the names’ of these women, to ‘restore them to history as full human beings’ (4)– Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Kate Eddowes, Elisabeth Stride and Mary Jane Kelly from the mythology created by the popular press of the day, as well as the misogynistic culture of the Victorian Era that demonised the victims as prostitutes and ‘low-life’s’.In fact, only two of the women worked in the sex industry. This non-fiction novel is about “struggling to survive in the brutal society forged by the Industrial Revolution.” (5)
A CULTURE’S OBESESSION
As Wendy Smith writes in the Washington Post, “Hallie Rubenhold’s hard-edged, heartbreaking biographies of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper over two months in 1888 offer a blistering counter-narrative to the “male, authoritarian, and middle class” legend of a demonic superman preying on prostitutes. (6)
WHY THE RIPPER KILLINGS ARE STILL RELEVANT TO THIS DAY
And finally, in the words of Rubenhold herself:
At its very core, the story of Jack the Ripper is a narrative of a killer’s deep, abiding hatred of women, and our culture’s obsession with the mythology serves only to normalize its particular brand of misogyny,” Rubenhold writes. “We have grown so comfortable with the notion of ‘Jack the Ripper,’ the unfathomable, invincible male killer, that we have failed to recognize that he continues to walk among us.” (7)
Wilson, Frances, “The Five by Hallie Rubenhold review – the untold lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims.” The Guardian,https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/13/the-five-by-hallie-rubenhold-review-the-untold-lives-of-the-rippers-victims (accessed 4th June 2019)
(7) Chrisman – Campbell, Kimberly, “The Five: the Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper,’ Book & Film Globe, https://bookandfilmglobe.com/nonfiction/book-review-the-five/ (accessed 4th June 2019).
(4) (5) (6)Smith, Wendy, Jack the Ripper’s identity has been endlessly scrutinised. His victims were largely forgotten,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/jack-the-rippers-identity-has-been-endlessly-scrutinized-his-victims-were-largely-forgotten/2019/04/05/cc77f4fa-57bb-11e9-814f-e2f46684196e_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ba3b23cf38e (accessed 4th June 2019).
- Hallie Rubenhold – Author – Broadcaster – Historical Cosultant,
https://www.hallierubenhold.com (accessed 4th June 2019).
Cain, Sian, Hallie Rubenhold – “Jack the Ripper’s victims have just become corpses. Can’t we do better?,” The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/01/hallie-rubenhold-jack-the-ripper-victims (accessed 4th June 2019).
(2)(3)Hallie Rubenhold: “To most people, the women killed by the Ripper are just corpses. I want to tell a different storty, historyextra – the official website for BBC History Magazine, https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/hallie-rubenhold-jack-ripper-victims-five-book-interview-history/ (accessed 4th June 2019).