Mini Review: The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold

Need some nonfiction for Halloween? Here you go. cover of The Five
TW for discussion of violence against women.

In 1888, an unknown killer dubbed “Jack the Ripper” killed at least five women. Since then, multitudes of books and movies have been made about the killer, but none have been written about his victims. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper seeks to redress this by telling the stories of “the canonical five.” These five women are the ones considered most likely to have been the victims of a single killer in 1888: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.


Because these women lived in a neighborhood known for crime, and because they were killed while outside at night (with the exception of Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed in her bedroom), the public assumed that they were prostitutes. The author challenges the assumption that all of the women were prostitutes and explores why this assumption was made at the time as well as why it continues today. She also challenges the assumption that prostitutes are unworthy of safety and dignity. By exploring the lives of these five women, she humanizes them and in the process illustrates the choices faced by women in the working and unemployed classes. It’s a sad, but fascinating, book.


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