‘The Five’ by Hallie Rubenhold

The Five

Famous for nothing more than being victims of Jack the Ripper, the reputations of five women have for years been tarnished by claims that they were simply prostitutes, sex workers who led selfish, pointless lives. But in truth, their stories have never been told. Now, Hallie Rubenhold uncovers the real lives of Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane and reveals how they came from a variety of backgrounds and geographical locations, including Fleet Street, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote songs, owned coffee houses, lived on country estates and escaped the perils and demands of people-traffickers. They were mothers, sisters, daughters and wives whose only crimes were to fall prey to poverty and desperation.

Ever since the name of Jack the Ripper was first coined, that infamous being has reigned supreme in countless books, movies, documentaries and even tours of the murder sites. Concentrating on the grisly murders, everyone wants to know about the possible motives, the failings of the police investigation and the ever-growing list of possible suspects. It seems ridiculous that, until now, few historians have gone to the trouble of exploring the lives of the five women who made the Ripper famous.

Hallie Rubenhold has a gift for meticulous research and in this fascinating account, she brings to life the real women whose lives ended between August and November 1888. The author’s circumspect approach brings the women and the era alive and highlights that it was not prostitution but poverty, alcohol and tragedy that led them to their sudden and unwarranted deaths.

A provocative and thoroughly absorbing book.

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