Review: The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Women by Hallie Rubenhold

Title:   The Five: The Lives of Jack The Ripper’s Women 

Author: Hallie Rubenhold

Genre: nonfiction

Pages: 359

Read: December 4, 2020

5 stars
5 stars – I loved it!

In The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Women, Hallie Rubenhold discusses the five women who are famous for being Jack the Ripper’s victims. She does not discuss what Jack did to them instead she follows their lives from the time of their birth leading to the night of their deaths. Rubenhold shows us who Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane really were and not just what happened to them in the end. 

“The victims of Jack the Ripper were never “just prostitutes”; they were daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and lovers. They were women. They were human beings, and surely that in itself is enough.”

Hallie Rubenhold has done an amazing job at giving these women back their lives. For so long, they have only been known as the prostitute victims of Jack the Ripper. Now their stories of happiness, tragedy, and loss are being told. Of the five canonical Ripper victims, only one of the women is confirmed to have been a prostitute, but as far as the world knows they all were. The media of the time exaggerated the stories of these women so much that it buried who they really were. 

“The larger his profile grows, the more those of his victims seem to fade. With the advance of time, both the murderer and those he murdered have become detached from reality; their experiences and names have become entwined with folklore and conspiracy theories.”

I learned so much about what life was like in the 1800s with this book. Women had very little rights during this time. Becoming poor and homeless was extremely easy during this time for women, especially considering the working class had little understanding of birth control. These four women had to deal with abusive husbands, homelessness, starvation, alcoholism, multiple children, and also the deaths of those children. It is no wonder that so many people turned to alcohol during this time. They rarely had time to be happy or enjoy their lives. 

“The cards were stacked against Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane from birth. They began their lives in deficit. Not only were most of them born into working-class families; they were also born female. Before they had even spoken their first words or taken their first steps, they were regarded as less important than their brothers and more of a burden on the world than their wealthier female counterparts. Their worth was compromised before they had even attempted to prove it. They would never earn the income of a man; therefore, their education was of less importance. What work they could secure was designed to help support their families; it was not intended to bring them fulfillment, a sense of purpose, or personal contentment.”

This was an amazing book that gave these five women back their lives. It also presents a fascinating look at London society, history, and women’s rights during this time. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Jack the Ripper. 

Trigger Warnings:

  • Alcoholism
  • Suicide
  • Death of Children
  • Miscarriage and stillborn
  • Grief 
  • Domestic Violence 
  • Homelessness 
  • Starvation 
  • Prostitution

Goodreads / Amazon



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