The Five

By Hallie Rubenhold,

Book cover of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Book description

'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked The Five as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The five women who were Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims have always been just that, his victims. Rubenhold gives them back their identities, in their own right, as mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives and challenges the ‘traditional’ view. For three of them, there is no evidence that they were prostitutes, but all five were women battling personal demons who were down on their luck. They were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. The Five is not the story of their deaths, but their lives.

I love books that teach me something new about something I had always assumed to be true, like the “fact” that Jack the Ripper preyed on prostitutes. Rubenhold turns this narrative on its head to give Ripper’s canonical victims “that which was so brutally taken away with their lives: their dignity.” These exhaustively researched biographies show how sickness, trauma, and addiction intersected with the indifference of employers, husbands, and public officials to force each woman out onto the streets of Whitechapel. The Five is not just an impassioned indictment of middle-class Victorian society, but of any society that decides working-class…

Well over a century after his reign of terror, Jack the Ripper remains a household name, his identity the subject of endless public debate. In her group biography of the ‘Canonical Five’—the five women most widely regarded as the Ripper’s victims—Hallie Rubenhold takes a different approach. Instead of spilling yet more ink on attempts to unmask this Victorian serial killer, she focuses instead on the women whose lives were brutally taken away. I loved the way that Rubenhold’s justifiably angry narrative transformed Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly from a homogenous group of…

I bought this book after I attended a talk given by the author at the Bath Festival – Hallie Rubenhold is a historian I had read before but The Five was entirely different than her previous books.

The book delves deep into the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims rather than exploring who Jack might or might not have been. I was deeply moved by these women’s stories and how easily they were branded as prostitutes by the press. Each endured a different set of circumstances that brought them to Whitechapel…circumstances of which anyone could find themselves the victim of.…

When Hallie Rubenhold set out to write The Five, she thought she would be writing about the lives of England’s most famous prostitutes, the five women killed by Jack the Ripper. Instead, she discovered that three of the victims were not sex workers at all. They were just desperately poor and in the wrong place at the wrong time. And like my main character, Diamond Bessie, these women also lived at the wrong time. Newspapers in England and around the world intimated that the Ripper’s victims basically got what they deserved. Rubenhold authoritatively and engrossingly refutes this, but as…

From Jody's list on 19th century prostitutes.

One of my favorite things a book can do is offer to show me what I think know is wrong. Many readers passionate about history might think they understand the lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper in White Chapel in 1888. Weren’t they prostitutes? Well, no. In this masterful book, Hallie Rubenhold digs into true stories of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jane Kelly, shifting the focus from the killer who has gripped the public for more than a century, to his victims. She reveals complex women, invariably struggling, invariably poor,…

In a unique take on the Jack the Ripper crimes, this book tells the stories of the killer’s five victims. Contrary to accepted history, only one was a working prostitute, most came from middle-class backgrounds, had husbands and families, before beginning the sad descent into alcoholic destitution. All were homeless, and most likely were killed while they slept. A heart-wrenching chronicle of lives wasted and tragically ended.

From Rick's list on unsolved murders.

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