They were more than just victims. They had names -- Mary Ann, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, Mary Jane. They were little girls once with the same dreams and hopes that all children share. They aspired to escape from the mean, dreary lives that they inherited. Four of them married and three became mothers. Whether it was through their own weaknesses and failings or through cruel vagaries of fate, they ended up on the dark streets of the Whitechapel District of London in the fall of 1888. There, they encountered the person who would consign their names to history. It was a terrible way to be remembered. This is a literate, exhaustively researched, and compassionate study of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper. It brings into sharp relief the pitiless degradation that the poor were forced to endure and is as much an indictment of a misogynistic and cruelly unjust society as it is the sad chronicle of five lost lives.
— Alden Graves
Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.
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.
About the Author
HALLIE RUBENHOLD is a social historian whose expertise lies in rediscovering the stories of previously unknown women and episodes in history. The Five is the first full-length biography of the victims of Jack the Ripper to be published since 1888. By drawing upon a wealth of previously unseen archival material and adding a much-needed historical context to the victims’ lives, The Five promises to change the narrative of these murders forever.
“[A] must for Ripperologists.”--Publishers Weekly *starred* review
“[E]ssential to students of Ripperiana.”--Kirkus Review
“At last, the Ripper's victims get a voice...An eloquent, stirring challenge to reject the prevailing Ripper myth." —The Mail on Sunday
“[A]n angry and important work of historical detection…The Five is not simply about the women who were murdered in Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888: it is for them. This is a powerful and a shaming book, but most shameful of all is that it took 130 years to write.” —The Guardian
“Deeply researched and powerfully told, The Five unearths the truth behind the Victorian Age's most sensational crime: the 1888 murder spree of Jack the Ripper. Hallie Rubenhold reaches beyond 130 years' worth of lurid headlines and misleading reports to humanize the victims and explore their lives—and tragic, untimely deaths. The Five is a coruscating gem of a book, as necessary as it is compelling.” —Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
“Meticulously researched and beautifully executed, The Five is a powerful and timely retelling of a story you think you already know. Rubenhold strips away decades of myths and misconceptions so that the women who were ruthlessly murdered by Jack the Ripper are no longer one-dimensional characters in a Penny Dreadful, but real human beings with very real struggles, hopes, and fears. With this important book, Rubenhold proves she is a master of narrative nonfiction: a historian with a novelist’s soul.” —Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art
"Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears, of pity and of rage." —Lucy Worsley, BBC presenter, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, and author
“What a brilliant and necessary book.” —Jo Baker, best-selling author Longbourn
“A Ripper narrative that gives voice to the women he silenced; I’ve been waiting for this book for years. Beautifully written and with the grip of a thriller, it will open your eyes and break your heart.” —Erin Kelly, best-selling author of He Said/She Said