The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

Did you know one of his victims was Swedish? Did you know one escaped a sex trafficking ring in France? I certainly didn’t before reading this. We read of these women as humans and not ‘just prostitutes’.  Rubenhold seeks to give these five women dignity, something they were not granted in death, or life for that matter. This book is incredible, not only does it have engaging stories, but also interesting thinking points coming from them. The lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims are actually more interesting than him in my opinion. We learn what life is like for working-class Victorian women and so much more, like policies and knowledge on contagious disease in Europe, about East London at the time and working-class marriage and cohabitation.

After sharing their lives, Rubenhold reflects on mentalities around true crime, telling us how it is rather preposterous how the enigma and intrigue of true crime become commodified and glorified, how a man who eviscerated innocent women has museums and merchandise in his name, how people discuss the twisted genius of these characters, with the victims just an accessory to the tale. The killers often get the exact attention they crave. Dismissing these women as mere prostitutes as the Victorian media did is extremely damaging, upholding an old value system of mortality in women, that poor working-class women and prostitutes meet bad ends because of their actions and lifestyle, not because of their harsh circumstances. It made me reflect upon societal failings, dismissing certain types of victims and hailing certain types of people’s word over others, often being why killers get away with what they do for so long. I still love true crime, but I definitely will be more aware of the victims, glorification and wider implications of the murder.