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

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

Author: Hallie Rubenhold

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Blurb

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.

The Review

I stand accused. I stand accused of being guilty of the exact thing that Hallie Rubenhold has written about in her fabulous book The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. I, myself, have only ever known them to be prostitutes and never once have I thought to consider these women as actual people. They are almost myth and legend. Nowadays we are titillated over the gruesome crimes of a serial killer. You have to ask yourself, if this crime happened today would we celebrate a murderer? Probably not.

What this wonderful book does is delve into the history of these women and show how their lives were shaped by the environment they were living in. Victorian England was harsh to a lot of people – working class women in particular. Rubenhold gives you a glimpse in to a world that you wouldn’t even want to imagine.

What I have taken from this book is that these women had a life beyond their death and I will now remember them for who they are: Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine ,and Mary-Jane.

The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is available now.

For more information regarding Hallie Rubenhold (@HallieRubenhold) please visit

For more information regarding Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHCo) please visit

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