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The five women who maden Jack the Ripper

The five women who made Jack the Ripper

The Five

Today you can join me on a historical journey back into the year 1888 and get to know The Five women who made Jack the Ripper one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. With the book titled The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, we jump into the lives of Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jane Kelly. While reading this book, you will feel like you leave your daily life and get back into the streets of London 1888 you can almost feel the fog in the streets and smell the blood of the victims in the air


Hallie Rubenhold was born in Los Angeles in 1971. She is an author and a social historian. Besides writing books, articles, and reviews, Hallie also appears on television, where she contributes her knowledge in documentaries. She is living in London with her husband.


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Forewords from the reviewer

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper is the first book I have ever seen with an author taking an in-depth look into the lives of the victims of Jack the Ripper. My reading experience about Jack the Ripper spans from books written by Ripperologists to conspiracy theories and everything in between.

My span of reading and studies of JTR (Jack the Ripper) is quite significant, mainly because I learned about him in my childhood. So in some way, Jack is the one that gave me an interest in serial killers, which I have later followed up on with studies of other infamous serial killers and killers in general. Besides different reasons got me into the true crime community.

The Five

Now let us go back in time and look into The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. The book begins by letting us know the author Hallie Rubehold dedicates to book to Mary Ann Poly Nicols, Annie ChapmanElizabeth StrideCatherine Eddowsand Mary Jane Kelly. This mentioning is probably the first time these ladies have gotten any acknowledgment for making Jack the Ripper (in)famous


London 1888 – two cities

Queen Victoria

Every fairytale begins with once upon a time. But not this one this is far from a fairytale; therefore, I like the way Hallie begins her book. She starts by telling us about what most people were aware of in 1888 as well as today. Queen Victoria is the tale printed in most history books and conveyed from generation to generation. We learn about Queen Victoria as a teenager and how she had the crown placed on her head and how she celebrated her golden jubilee. It seemed like a great time in history where people from the high-society danced and tiaras sparkled in the night.

In the shadows

The other tale from London 1888 is a dark story of murders. This bloody tale most history books don’t mention. But the killings of The Five women later made one unknown man infamous as Jack the Ripper.

The killings were quite the opposite of the celebration of Queen Victoria with glam and glory; the murders represent a dark side of Britain; however, not forgotten.

On a beautiful sunny day, the poor used Trafalgar square as a spacious campsite while the rich were enjoying themselves under their parasols and the trees to hide from the sun.

Rich and poor

Hallie Rubenhold gives a good description of the east and the west of the city. East London was where the poor lived while West London was for rich people.

We receive a detailed description of how the poor lived on the street, what they did as well as we learn about their hopes and dreams.

The possibility of a revolution was near in 1887. For some people, the revolution couldn’t come soon enough, while to others, it happened too fast. The trigger came on November 8 when the commissioner of the police, Sir Charles Warren, banned all meetings in Trafalgar square. The common man saw this decision as an act of war.

The Demonstration

With more than 40 thousand men and women wanting to make their point, a demonstration got planned. 

The meaning was to create a peaceful protest, but a lot of people came with knives and stuff that could get used as weapons. The event got met by nothing less than 2000 police officers and the lifeguards of the Queen. This specific day became known as Bloody Sunday.

Trough these scenarios were two women who would later come to define the 19th century. Victoria was one of the women she gave her name to the entire area from 1837 to 1901. The other woman was named Mary Ann Nicols for short known as Polly. Mary Ann Nicols would soon drift into forgetfulness while her killer Jack the Ripper would be remembered forever.

The Jack the Ripper Killings

Twelve months went after the sparkly jubilee in the summer until the murder of Polly Nicols on August 31, 1888. Polly became the first of The Five victims of Jack the Ripper. One has to note it was the police who determined who had been killed by Jack the Ripper (JTR)

Jack the Rippers second victims Annie Chapman was found on September 8, 1888

In the chilling morning of September 30, 1888, Jack managed to kill twice. The murder of Elizabeth Stride and the murder of Catherine Eddows became known as the double event.

After killing Polly Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, and Cathrine Edows Jack the Ripper took a brief pause in his killing spree. The Ripper was back on November 9, where Mary Jean Kelly’s mutilated body got found on her bed.

A stunned London

The brutality of the murders of The Five shocked London. All of the women had their throats cut. Four of the killings happened in the open while Mary Jane Kelly got murdered in her home. The Metropolitan police did what they could at the time. Still, until the autumn of 1888, they had never witnessed anything like the killings of Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jane Kelly. It seemed like the bloodthirsty killer was one step ahead all of the time, leaving no clues behind. Therefore the killings came to look almost supernatural.

Fake news

Because of the lack of information provided by the police, the newspapers made their theories speaking about the modus Operandi of the unknown monster who walked the streets at night. In 1888 exploration into the killings was held publicly in Whitechapel.

When we hear the line fake news, we think about the world today, but actually, there is nothing new to fake news. Even in 1888, during the Jack, the Ripper killings fake news was habitual. The false pieces of information about the murders made the anxiety to the people living in Whitechapel worse, but it sold a lot of newspapers. The inhabitants were so scared of the unknown predator walking the streets of London that most people did stay indoors at night. 

Even though people felt disgusted by the awful killings, some felt fascination as well. One can say nothing has changed from 1888 to this day when we speak about murders today; people often feel a mix of disgust and fascination with serial killers and killers in general. Some people are curious, and others want to learn from whatever has happened. Well, time for me to go back to the topic – The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper.


In the book, we get provided with a good description of how it was living in London’s Whitechapel in 1888. In 1888 Whitechapel had been a well-liked city for Europen immigrants for at least two centuries. The migration from Europe made people highly suspicious of those who had another nationality, race, or religion than from what was usual in Britain at the time. Besides, We learn that the police even feared some streets in London.

The author gives us a detailed description of how the apartments and the streets looked back in London in 1888. And we learn how the newspapers had spread lies about how the lodging houses were only for prostitutes.


People have always heard how Jack the Ripper targeted prostitutes; however, Hallie Rubenhold examins the claim and leaves us questioning if it was true 

The author is not interested in looking into Jack the Ripper but in teaching us about his victims. We learn that the victims of Jack the Ripper were much more than The Five names we see every time Jack gets mentioned. We learn The Five were the women who made Jack the Ripper. It was Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jane Kelly that made Jack the Ripper one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. It is because of The Five women we remember the name Jack the Ripper.

The Five women who made Jack the Ripper

Polly Nicols 

The first of the five women who made Jack the Ripper


Polly Nicols: August 26, 1845 – August 31, 1888

Hallie Rubenhold begins by telling about Mary Ann Nicols, who became the first victim of Jack the Ripper and one of the five women who made Jack the Ripper infamous. We learn about Mary Ann, who had the nickname Polly from she was born until her death. We get an in-depth explanation of how she lived with her family. And we learn that Polly was the daughter of a blacksmith; besides, we get a look into how she lost her mother and what that meant for Polly’s future.

In this chapter, we learn about what kind of illness it was that took a lot of lives in 1888, and we get a description of how it was when a man lost his wife in the time where Jack the Ripper hunted the streets.

We learn about Polly’s personal life how she met her husband when they got married and when they became parents as well as we get to know how Polly loses a child and becomes the mother of more children.

Abraham Lincoln

In the chapter called Polly, we learn how Londoners disliked America. In January 1862, London was one of the worst places to be an American. Besides, we get to know how Londoners cursed the name of Abraham Lincoln.

However, an American financier named George Peabody did everything in his power to help the poor. In March 1862, the so-called Peabody buildings got built. With more than 100 applications for the 75 Peabody apartments, the buildings helped some of London’s inhabitants out of the slumps.

Mr.Peabody even got a letter of gratitude written by Queen Victoria herself.

In 1876 the Nicols family were so fortunate to be one of the families to move into a Peabody apartment. Things seemed right for the Nicols in 1876, but sadly, just a few years later, Polly and her husband began arguing. The author takes us through the ups and downs in the Nicols family. Therefore we get an idea of how and why Polly started drinking.

The arguments between Mrs. and Mr. Nicols turned out with Polly leaving her family home, even handing over the children to their father.


The family suspected that Mr. Nicoles had been unfaithful to Polly. Rubenstein describes how single women were looked at in London in 1888. As well as she explains about adultery and life for couples in the victorian area. We learn how Polly met a new man and how she went in and out of workhouses.

Goodbye Polly

In the last part of the chapter about Polly, we learn how she spent her life living cold and anonymous. We get a good insight into how it was living in poorness at the time Jack the Ripper made “a name” for himself.

Before Polly got murdered in the streets of London, she had begun tramping. Polly’s husband saw her after she got brutally murdered. Even though she had massive injuries, it got said he could still recognize her.

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Annie Chapman

The second of the five women who made Jack the Ripper

Annie September 1841 – September 8, 1888

Date of birth

When reading the chapter about Annie Eliza Smith later Chapman, we learn that the precise time of her birth is unknown. Annie became the second victim killed by Jack the Ripper thereby she became one of the five women who made a name for Jack the Ripper

In this chapter, we learn about Annie’s parents and how she grew up. Due to her father’s work, Annie had a glimpse into the high society life even though she grew up living in a working-class family. At one time in her life, she and her family also lived in Windsor’s. We get to know how an illness like typhus and scarlet fever took the lives of some of her siblings. Besides, we learn how Annie’s father ended taking his life.


We get to know how Annie and her husband had their photo taken after they got married. And we get a glimpse at the exciting work of Mr.Chapman. The author tells us about the outfits and the jewelry the couple wore. The life of Annie might have turned out as a good life for the family if Annie hadn’t been an alcoholic.

The kiss

When Annies’ 12-year-old daughter got ill, the first thought on Annie’s mind was scarlet fever, but it turned out to be meningitis. Because of her daughters’ illness, Annie turns to the bottle; therefore, she wasn’t by her daughters’ site when she passed away.

We get to know how Annie began to be known to the police and how she, in December 1882, arrived at a sanatorium to help her stop drinking. Annie was signed up for a year-long program at the hospital. She left the sanatorium as a changed woman; she was finally sober. But then her husband fell ill, and alcohol got used as medicine. After he had taken a drink for his pain, he kissed Annie; this made Annie’s craving for alcohol return.

High society

Annie and her husband lived in the higher circles of society, but the community didn’t want to face the embarrassment of having a woman on their ground who was an unpredictable drunk so they ordered John to remove his wife from their home, or he would get dismissed, and this became the end of their relationship

The downfall

It is for sure that Annie’s family would not have tolerated her drinking. One can only imagine how Annie must have felt when she chooses a life without those she loved over the drinks. She is said to have told she must and would have the bottle.

Annie had her picture taken proudly wearing gold earrings and a broch; she was the daughter of a guardsman and the wife of a gentleman coachmen. She had become a mother, and she had walked through Hyde Park. How was it possible for Annie to end living in Whitechapel? We can only speculate about this. However, the book describes how she might have known off or accompanied someone to Whitechapel.


The book, The Five describes how Annie met a man named Jack. Like Annie, he had a weakness for drinking. The meeting with Jack might have been the connection she made to Whitechapel.

We learn how women who had a weakness for drinking got seen as prostitutes; they were the outcasts. Because of her drinking, this might have been the reason why Annie, got described as a prostitute when her dead body got found.

When Annie’s ex-husband got ill, she walked to Windsor to see him. Annie became a pair with a new man after she and Jack split up

Not a prostitute

It is interesting to learn how there is no evidence of Annie being a prostitute. Annie never walked the streets; she had never been working in a brothel, nor did she ever had a pimp. And no witnesses have ever confirmed Annie selling herself for sex

A place to sleep

The press never revealed how Annie had pleaded for her usual bed. Even though she didn’t have the money, she had requested Tim Donovan to trust her for the money for the night. However, Mr.Donovan declined if this had become known to the public, he might have faced a worse backlash for his dismiss. He told her coldhearted she could find the money for drinking but not for a bed

The police

When you read the book The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed By Jack the Ripper, you might get another outlook at the police in 1888.

As the body of Annie got found and the police filled in a form about the victim they immediately wrote her occupation as a prostitute just like they had done in the murder case of Polly Nicols

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Elizabeth Stride

The third of the five women who made Jack the Ripper

Elizabeth Stride: November 27, 1843 – September 30, 1888

The beginning

The chapter about Elizabeth Stride begins in Sweden, where Elizabeth grew up. We get insight into the laws and living at the time in Sweden.

Back in 1800, young women worked as maids, and there was often a temptation for these young women to get into a relationship with the man of the house where they worked. Leaving Sweden to move to England made Elizabeth Stride become one of the five women who made Jack the Ripper if she had stayed in Sweden. The Ripper would never have crossed her path.

Their fault

In this chapter, we receive a historical look at prostitution, the police, and how prostitutes got blamed for spreading sexual disease. There was even a register of shame, and Elizabeth’s name was in the record.

Leaving Sweden

We get to know how Elizabeth met John Stride and became engaged. And we learn how people tipped their hat when meeting Mr.Stride, but they didn’t even dare to look at him. Mr. Stride became a widower in 1817; he and his wife had nine children.

Elizabeth got described as having beautiful features and that the prettiness remained in her face.

Princess Alice

The book describes a ship disaster where a ship named Princess Alice sank in 1878. It was while this to most people nowadays an unknown accident happened Elizabeth got married to John Stride. Sadly for both John and Elizabeth, the couple couldn’t bear children.

Because of the ship’s disaster, people who had suffered received money, Elizabeth like a lot of other people might have tried to fraud some money from the catastrophe by claiming she had a connection to the ship disaster even though there is no proof of such.


In 1884 John Stride passed away; this made Elizabeth’s life spiraled downward even though the couple had split. We get to know how Elizabeth met another man named Michael Kidney; the couple had a complicated relationship. Because of her Syphilis, Elizabeth’s health became worse.

  The murder of Elizabeth

The author gives us an authentic look at how Elizabeth’s body got found. At this point, you can see the scenario in your minds-eye. Elizabeth got found in a fetal position. The author tells she is unsure if Elizabeth might have fallen victim to another man’s violence or if she was a Jack the Ripper victim. After Elizabeth Stride got murdered in autumn 1888, no one cared to find her family in Sweden and let them know what had happened to their loved one.

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Kate Eddows

The fourth of the five women who made Jack the Ripper

Kate: April 14, 1842, to September 30, 1888

Note by the reviewer

Before I take you through this chapter, I have to mention that other sources say Kate passed away in November of 1888 and not as this book tells in September. I’m not an expert, and I’m not claiming the author to be wrong; I am just confused about which month Kate passed away. If you have any knowledge of this, please let me know in the comments; thanks in advance.


Like with the other victims, the author begins telling of when Kate was little, and we get to know her parents. While reading about the victims, it is chilling to see how each of them later would become the five women who made Jack the Ripper. Kate became the fourth Ripper victim. 

We learn about an incident where Kate was caught stealing this incident would come to define the rest of Kate’s life. The rest of Kate’s family wouldn’t forget nor forgive her for theft. At the age of 19, Kate packed her belongings and set for Birmingham to make a new start

Bare-knuckle boxing

Since the 18th century, bare-knuckle boxing had been a big business in England. British Men from all classes got hooked on this new exciting sport. So was a man named Thomas Conway, who was born in 1810. Thomas was so hooked up on the game he even went to the ring in 1866.

Here Hallie Rubenhold gives us a small but fascinating historical description of how the fights went on at the time.


In 1888 it was common for sailors and soldiers to have tattoos. However, Kate got Thomas´s (they became a pair) initials tattooed on her arm. In 1888 it was seen as dirty for a woman to have body art. 

John Kelly

After Kate and Thomas had ended their relationship, Kate met a new man named John Kelly. Kate’s family never liked Thomas Conway; however, they disliked John Kelly more.

We get to know about Kate’s drinking, and we learn that John Kelly was a heavy drinker.

After Kate had got murdered, John Kelly told different scenarios about what had happened the last time he saw Kate. In light of the murder of Kate, he did know how it would look if he had told he had to spend money on a place for himself to sleep, not providing Kate with the same opportunity. A lot of Mr. Kelly’s statements didn’t add up.

It wasn´t John Kelly who identified Kate after her death her sister did

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Mary Jane Kelly

The fifth of the five women who made Jack the Ripper

Mary Jane Kelly: Ca.1863 to November 9, 1888

The enigma

It seems like Mary Jane Kelly was a big as an enigma while she lived as well, as her fatal murder became an enigma too. Mary Jean told people she had two children; however, the stories she shared about herself might have had some truth and some fiction to it.

The author tells how Mary Kelly might have created the persona she presented to the world. Mary Jane Kelly took the enigma about her person to the grave. Mary Kelly became the fifth victim of JTR; thereby, she became one of the five women who made Jack the Ripper into the infamous unknown monster we known his like today. The killing of Mary Kelly became the most bloody of the five murders with a lot of overkill.

Fast facts

  • It is unknown from where Mary Jane got her surname some believe it was a name she took while she was staying in brothels
  • In the 1800th century, gay women walked the streets openly without any fear from the authorities.
  • Mary Kelly got a bad habit of drinking while she lived in France.
  • Mary Jean Kelly got described in two different ways one can sit back, wondering who she was.

The broken window

Mary Kelly met a man named Barnet, who had promised to take care of her. To keep women, safe Mary offered women from the street to sleep in the apartment of the couple. However, Mr. Barnet disliked the women Mary took home; therefore, he and Mary Kelly got into a massive argument where Mary broke a window; the window was later stuffed but never repaired.

Mr. Barnet claimed that while he and Mary Jean were still a couple they had read the newspapers daily in the hope that the unknown Ripper got caught

Edward Fairfield

Edward Fairfield was working for the Colonial Office, and he wrote to the Times how the horror and the excitement caused by the murders of the four Whitechapel outcasts imply a universal belief that the women had a right to life. In his opinion, if the women had a right to life, so they had the further right to hire a shelter from the English night. Edward Fairfield’s concluded if the women didn’t have the right, then it was good that they fell in the hands of this genius, unknown surgeon. Little did he know that Annie had lived just a few streets away from him. However, while Annie was lying dying on the roads to Mr. Fairfield, she was as good as a whore in his eyes because she was drunk and homeless. To Edward Fairfield Jack the Ripper solved the problem with what he called vicious inhabitants.

Newspaper PhD

One can’t help to find it ironic that Mr. Fairfield was a bachelor who had learned everything he knew about the people he called vicious inhabitants from the small snippets of information he had read in the newspapers.

How to define a prostitute

We get to see how a trial got set in 1887 to prevent the word prostitute from getting thrown after every woman who walked alone in the evening. This trail came to be because one evening, a dressmaker went out on her own to buy a pair of gloves. The police arrested the woman as a streetwalker. After the trial, the police got forced to think twice before slapping the label of a prostitute on any woman.

Hallie tells how only Mary Jane Kelly had described herself as a prostitute none of the other women ever did nor had any men say they had had a connection to the women because of prostitution


The author reveals how she thinks the Ripper victims get ridiculed for money. Hallie describes how The Five victims have become cartoon-like characters for people to make money. Here I have to note that the Jack the Ripper murders have become a massive profit in London.

On the other hand, when thinking of the so-called Jack, the Ripper walks in London, I would be ready to join. Because I have a substantial historical interest in the victorian area and as you probably have guessed by now in the Jack the Ripper case as well. Therefore a Jack the Ripper walk to me would give the feel of the Victorian area, and one would be able to see the dark streets of London getting a feel to how it must have been living at the time.


After telling about Mary Kelly, the author concludes that nobody valued The Five women who made Jack the Ripper. I can only agree with Hallie Rubenhold no matter what these women were and how they lived their lives, none of them deserved to have their lives taken by anybody. Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jean Kelly were somebody. These women had an existence no matter if their lives were good or bad. They deserve to be remembered not only as of the five victims of Jack the Ripper but as the women they were. Without Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jean Kelly Jack, the Ripper would have been a nobody.

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The Five: the Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper gives new life to Mary Ann Nicols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows, and Mary Jane Kelly. The book is interesting from the beginning to the end. Some of the women Hallie speaks more about than others, but I guess that is because it might have been a difficult journey for her to find the same amount of information on each woman. Like Mary Jane Kelly who was a kind of an enigma in life, it must have been challenging to find the info Hallie provides to us in this book

However, if you expect this piece to be a gory book about Jack the Ripper murders, then the book is not for you. To love this book, you might need to have an interest in the lives of the victims or at least a historical interest in the 1800th century. If you are new to the Whitechapel murders, I would recommend that you read a few books about Jack the Ripper before you read this book.

The Guardian about Hallie Rubenhold and The Five: the untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

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