by Hallie Rubenhold

popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 23: Won and award in 2019

What a book! Interesting, well-researched, accessible, thought-provoking and attitude-shifting. It is with some shame that I realised that I, along with most people, know nothing of the victims and much of the murderer that was Jack the Ripper.

This book set that right. It is a most interesting, well researched and well written account of the lives of the five women. And what lives they had. The image of ‘olden days’ life always puts the fantasized in a position of wealth – we are all upstairs at Downton Abbey in our imaginings. In actual fact, life for most people in in the 1800s, and especially women and even more especially poor women, was pretty horrible. It was a hard grind with no support either from the government or society. It seems the only support anyone in dire situations had was the meagre offerings of other people in equally as terrible a situation.
And it is from the lofty positions of a sanitised 20th century that we have looked back and judged these murder victims as ‘just prostitutes’. We cannot for one second suppose any right to judge the lives these women live. The problem in the ‘just prostitutes’, as examined by this book, is in the use of both ‘just’ and ‘prostitute’. Only one of the women was a self identified sex worker. For the others, the exchange of sex for survival is more complicated than is allowed by that moniker. But more importantly is the use of ‘just’. Being a sex worker does not mean you deserve to be murdered. These women should not have been written off because of their perceived life style choices (although the word choices here makes me want to cry).

I was angered, saddened, appalled and heartened by the ways these women lived in the hardest of times.
Wonderful book, well narrated and completely absorbing. Just read it/listen to it and I promise you will be astounded at how differently you feel about this case and yourself afterwards.