The Whitechapel Canonical Five: Jack the Ripper’s Victims

Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

Wednesday March 22, 2023 12:00pm EST
Jonathon Perrin
The Whitechapel Canonical Five  Jack the Ripper’s Victims

In 1888 Whitechapel and Spitalfields in London were gripped in horror and fear when five women were brutally slaughtered, all within just over two months. Much has been speculated about the identity of the elusive killer dubbed Jack the Ripper, but not so much has been written about the real lives of those women who were the victims of this notorious serial killer.

The so-called “canonical five” victims were Mary Ann Nichols (whose body was found on August 31), Annie Chapman (found September 8), Elizabeth Stride (found September 30), Catherine (Kate) Eddowes (found September 30), and Mary Jane Kelly (found November 9). It has been assumed that all these women were prostitutes, soliciting on the streets of Whitechapel. All, but Mary Jane Kelly, were butchered on the street and Kelly was killed in her room.  Curiously, recent research reveals that Nichols, Chapman, and Eddowes were not full-time prostitutes; that Stride had resorted to soliciting only occasionally, during periods of desperate poverty, and that the only verifiable prostitute among the five was Kelly. Were these women also victims of class-based Victorian prejudice and moral self-righteousness?

Mary Ann Nichols, also known as Polly had separated from her husband, with him taking four of their five children. He claimed she had deserted the family and resorted to prostitution, but there was no evidence of this. Polly Nichols’ life circumstances deteriorated, as she had a drinking problem, and she often frequented workhouses. On the night of her death, Polly bragged about her new black velvet bonnet to her lodgings housekeeper.  At 2h30 she was seen staggering towards Buck’s Row, and the last time she was seen alive was 05:30 in the morning.

Annie Chapman began her life in relative affluence, and married a private coachman to wealthy families. She was the mother of eight children, but only three survived beyond a few months.  It was later realized that she had been drinking during her pregnancies, and her children suffered from foetal alcohol syndrome disorders. After the death of their eldest daughter Emily from meningitis (she was only 12), both Annie and her husband succumbed to alcohol abuse. The couple separated with the husband taking custody of their remaining daughter. Annie paid 8d a night for her double bed in the Dorsett street lodging house. At 1h35 am she was seen walking towards Spitalfields Market…

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