The Five

The Five

The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Book - 2019
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"The untold story of the women killed by Jack the Ripper--and a gripping portrait of Victorian London--[this book] changes the narrative of these murders forever. Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from some of London's wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods, from the factory towns of middle England, and from Wales and Sweden. They wrote ballads, ran coffeehouses, lived on country estates; they breathed ink dust from printing presses and escaped human 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, but it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, by drawing on a wealth of formerly unseen archival material and adding full historical context to the victims' 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 women."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781328663818
Branch Call Number: 362.88 RUBENHO
Characteristics: viii, 333 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm


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May 29, 2020

This was an interesting read on the lives of the women who were victims of Jack the Ripper.

IndyPL_MontoyaB Apr 08, 2020

Currently reading this book for our upcoming Book Discussion. A wealth of information previously reported and presumptions made about the lives of the women, immediately following their deaths, is shown to be completely inaccurate. The book provides detailed facts about the lives of the women, not hearsay. The author does a tremendous job by keeping the book focused on the lives of the women, their family, and those who loved them. If you're interested in reading about the true history of the women, less the gore and gossip, highly recommend this book.

Feb 12, 2020

I loved this book. I can't believe no one ever came up with the idea of looking at the five victims of Jack the Ripper. I think it's because they were not part of the mystery. We knew who they were. They were simply "prostitutes."

However, this book proves they were so much more. There is even enough evidence to provide a reasonable doubt that three of them were not prostitutes at all, but simply homeless women struggling with alcoholism. Each woman's life reflects aspects of the social structure of Victorian England. It sucked to be poor and it really sucked to be female and poor. In fact, this book is also a testament to the value of birth control. Too many families who were driven downwards in economic class because of the multiplying number of mouths they had to feed.

The painstakingly researched bios are short and focused on each woman's life. Each bio ends right before her death and the grisly details are not discussed. In fact, this is not a book that cares about Jack the Ripper. He is the least interesting character of them all.

I was sorry when this book ended.

JCLBetM Dec 19, 2019

Wow. I was intrigued from the moment I heard of this--a book about the LIVES of the Ripper victims? Five women whose bodies have been picked over for centuries merely to unravel the tantalizing mystery the infamous unknown killer. The author's research is impressive and the way she brings these women to life is amazing and heartbreaking. An excellent reminder that everyone has a story and no one can be whittled down to one label--especially a false one.

TSCPL_AlexH Dec 19, 2019

This book is stunning. I enjoy reading fiction set during the Victorian era and yet my knowledge of everyday life for the working class has always been rather limited. Hallie Rubenhold does an amazing job of detailing the hardships of poor women in the era through the context of the lives of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper: Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane. Rubenhold takes the reader through each of these women's lives and details the circumstances leading them to the streets of Whitechapel and their deaths. The aim of the book is to show that there was, and is, no definitive proof that all of these women were prostitutes out soliciting sex the night of their deaths. It's easy to become engrossed by the myth of the monstrous, shadow-lurking Jack the Ripper and forget that his victims were all living, breathing human beings who never deserved to be murdered.

LibraryRosanna Oct 09, 2019

Hallie Rubenhold's The Five is a meticulously researched book that shines a much-needed light on the lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper. It does not dwell on the murders nor on the identity of the man, as so many other books have done. Instead, it brings us into the world inhabited by Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane. In the introduction, the author says her aim in writing the book was to restore "that which was so brutally taken away with their lives: their dignity." Ms. Rubenhold has succeeded. This is an important read.

Sep 16, 2019

Loved this book. So often the Ripper's victims are brushed off as "just prostitutes", but this book takes a deeper look. It realistically depicts how awful it was to be poor in Victorian times, and how women's lives hung by a thread. Their futures were impacted by their husband's status, behaviour, health, and his regard for his wife. So many of these women were caught up by tragic circumstances that destroyed their lives. A wonderful book, focussing on the women, not making the murderer into a cult hero.

Aug 07, 2019

fascinating social history and deep dive into 19th c society and women’s supporting/subjugated role within that society. It was a society that provided them few options and even less room to buck expectations.

Saddens me that it’s taken so long to scratch the sensational / superficial label of “prostitute “ from these five women. Their lives were so much more complex. This book shines a light on their lives as individuals and as women in victorian society.

“they began their lives in deficit. not only were most of them born into working-class families; they were also born female...their worth was compromised before they had even attempted to prove it “ ( 2019:288)

May 23, 2019

Amazing, exhausting history of how ordinary women lived in Victorian England. These five were murdered, after lives struggling with alcoholism, poverty, homelessness, disease. Don't expect to learn about their killer.


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