The Five

The Five

The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Book - 2019
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Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London&;the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that "the Ripper" preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time&;but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

Baker & Taylor
Miscast in the media for nearly 130 years, the victims of Jack the Ripper finally get their full stories told in this eye-opening and chilling reminder that life for middle-class women in Victorian London could be full of social pitfalls and peril.

& Taylor

Researched portraits of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper in 1888 reveal each victim's historically relevant and diverse background while discussing the cultural and gender disadvantages that made them vulnerable.
Researched portraits of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper in 1888 challenge popular beliefs to reveal each victim's historically relevant and diverse background while discussing the cultural and gender disadvantages that rendered them vulnerable. 25,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
ISBN: 9781328663818
Branch Call Number: 362. 88 RUB 2019-04
Characteristics: viii, 333 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Adult non-fiction. Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London-the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Winner - Best History & Biography: 31,783 of 159,223 total votes

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Dec 30, 2020

I really enjoyed this book even though it was a bit heartbreaking. The author, Hallie Rubenhold, does a fantastic job bringing the stories of these five women and the lives of the working poor of the London Victorian Era to life. If you were the working poor during this time, and especially a woman, It was certainly a precarious life that could quickly go from stable to destitute.

Highly recommend this read. Their lives are much more interesting than whoever took theirs.

Nov 10, 2020

The lives and hard times of the five known victims of Jack the Ripper. Every aspect of the murders has been gone over again and again by professional and amateur detectives in the last 140 years -- except one: who were the victims? Virtually every Ripper book spares only a paragraph or two each on them, while concentrating on the original investigation, gore, and pet theories, one more ridiculous than the next. Well, I suppose the authors know their audience: not readers who care about social history or poor women, but about the glamor of solving a mystery, spiced up with sex and blood. But are they right to assume the Ripper victims are irrelevant? It seems likely that, using modern methods, the women's habits and contacts could be traced, and clues to the identity Jack the Ripper are in The Five, somewhere. Hallie Rubenhold never loses sight of the women's individuality, and uncovers fascinating and unexpected aspects of their lives. I would have appreciated a chapter pulling together the investigation with what we know of the women's last days, but The Five is more than worth the time of anyone interested in a deeper look.

Nov 10, 2020

A well written account, gave a really good idea of how the lower classes lived in the late 1800’s. However I did find it too full of details. It got a little hard to read towards the end as the details were becoming monotonous, in my opinion. An interesting read though. I would recommend if you like British history.

Nov 08, 2020


debwalker Sep 20, 2020

Naming the victims of one of history's most notorious serial killers. And the tragic desperate lives that put them in his path.

Aug 24, 2020

I'm amazed at how much information the author was able to scrounge up on 5 very overlooked women. While reading, I was drawn into the world of poverty and addiction. These women were not just victims of a murderer, they were victims of a society organized to suppress female liberty and keep them beholden to men. I highly recommend this book.

Jul 27, 2020

I found this book, like so many accounts written concerning Jack the Ripper to be rife with speculation. In this case the speculation concerned the five victims. Repeatedly throughout the book, the author would say in describing the five as "would have", or "probably", or even"possibly". Yes there were facts, unfortunately in my opinion, more facts then were necessary. I found too much information was provided, concerning what businesses operated in the area, elaborate descriptions of the areas themselves (not just Whitechaple where the murders occurred), and the life and times of those with and without money and their living conditions. I honestly felt that much of this was in order to fill out the novel and provide something more than a short story. Too often I caught myself thinking I was reading a history book of the 1800's getting ready for tomorrows exam. At one point, and I reread the section repeatedly to make sure of what it said, was the description of one of the victims funeral, attended by so many individuals that it was hard for the procession to go down the street. The problem I have is that the book claimed this funeral possession occurred on September 8, when the victim was not murdered until September 30th.
This is purely my opinion and realize that many will find this book insightful, entertaining and well written. It just did not work for me.

May 29, 2020

This was an interesting read on the lives of the women who were victims of Jack the Ripper.

IndyPL_MontoyaB Apr 08, 2020

Currently reading this book for our upcoming Book Discussion. A wealth of information previously reported and presumptions made about the lives of the women, immediately following their deaths, is shown to be completely inaccurate. The book provides detailed facts about the lives of the women, not hearsay. The author does a tremendous job by keeping the book focused on the lives of the women, their family, and those who loved them. If you're interested in reading about the true history of the women, less the gore and gossip, highly recommend this book.

Feb 12, 2020

I loved this book. I can't believe no one ever came up with the idea of looking at the five victims of Jack the Ripper. I think it's because they were not part of the mystery. We knew who they were. They were simply "prostitutes."

However, this book proves they were so much more. There is even enough evidence to provide a reasonable doubt that three of them were not prostitutes at all, but simply homeless women struggling with alcoholism. Each woman's life reflects aspects of the social structure of Victorian England. It sucked to be poor and it really sucked to be female and poor. In fact, this book is also a testament to the value of birth control. Too many families who were driven downwards in economic class because of the multiplying number of mouths they had to feed.

The painstakingly researched bios are short and focused on each woman's life. Each bio ends right before her death and the grisly details are not discussed. In fact, this is not a book that cares about Jack the Ripper. He is the least interesting character of them all.

I was sorry when this book ended.

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