Remembering the Canonical Victims

Since writing the Ripper trilogy, I’ve kept an eye on the ongoing “discoveries,” commentary, and scholarship in Ripperology. One trend that I hope keeps going strong, is the increasing focus on the victims rather than on Jack the Ripper. While researching for Ripper, I found a plethora of materials about the suspects while information about the victims was spotty at best. In The Complete Jack the Ripper Donald Rumbelow provides some solid background to the “Canonical Five” victims—Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Kelly. Neal Shelden also has written about the victims. Yet the vast majority of available Ripper scholarship keeps the spotlight on the killer. Until now…

The Five 

By Hallie Rubenhold

I read this book in less than a week, and I can’t say enough about it! Rubenhold’s writing style is engaging and her research exhaustive. She fleshes out the Canonical Five victims, humanizing them, adding dimension to these women who are typically categorized by Ripperologists as prostitutes. She questions how easily scholars have categorized them as such and instead fleshes them out as mothers, daughters, wives, workers, and business owners. She even writes a solidly researched chapter about the most elusive of the victims, Mary Kelly—suggesting that she might have wanted to remain elusive after escaping from a human trafficking group in Europe. The timing for this book is also perfect in the ongoing dialogue brought forth by the #MeToo movement, pointing to how our society victim-blames in an effort to make those who attack women less monstrous than they actually are.

The Five Book cover.jpg

Additionally, I love this two hour walking tour highlighting some of the locations mentioned in The Five. The tour was put together by history teacher, Simon Beal. I’m definitely planning on walking it during my next trip to London!