Welcome to this bonus episode of the Memento Mori Oracle Podcast, where I will be talking about THE FIVE confirmed victims of London’s Jack the Ripper.
Known as the Cannonical Five in most accounts, these women and their stories have been overshadowed by the infamy of their killer.
I hope, that this series gives you some insight into the lives of the most famous murder victims of the Victorian Era, and helps to restore some of the truth and dignity that the media has taken away from them.
Now, this isn’t going to be your typical bonus episode. It will actually contain two, possibly three parts, beginning with this one; the intro, where we will discuss some very, very basic information about Jack, and set the scene of the city at this time.
Before I begin, I wanted to mention a lot of the personal information about the victims coming up in part two, is thanks to a book called The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. It is definitely worth grabbing a copy of if you want a more in-depth look at these stories.
I also just want to clarify that I may use the terms prostitution and prostitute in this series, instead of the terms sex-work and sex-worker, if I am quoting a news article.
In actuality there was not much evidence that the victims engaged in sex-work, one or two may have, but the issue is that it was a salacious description that sold newspapers in a time when a narrow idea of morality was all a woman had.
The idea that a woman living in white chapel was automatically a sex worker, is like assuming all the men of the area only had one profession as well. Like mining. Supply and demand doesn’t seem to work out.
The point of this series isn’t to debate the merits of sex-work or whether we agree with it or not. But it is a factor in that the women’s cases were not looked at properly because of this assumption.
Addiction and socioeconomic hardship was a factor for these women however, and to understand why, we need to look at the streets of London…..
The 1880s were an extremely tough time for the working class in Britain. But by all appearances, it shouldve been a prosperous time.
Industry was booming. Mass production as we think of it now was just about 25 years away.
Machines were common place, as were overcrowded sweat shops.
And while incomes were growing for factory owners, poverty was a looming threat for the employees, especially for the women working in the East London factories.
Women were the backbone of the industrial revolution, though frequently overlooked and disregarded in the census that was performed every decade.
Conditions of these work places were abysmal.
Many women were subjected to 14 hour days, but only earned 5 shillings per week, which would be the equivalent to about 4-5 pounds today.
To make matters worse, women were routinely fined and docked pay at their jobs for tiny indiscretions like talking, or not working fast enough.
You can only imagine what a “bad” week could do to a womans living situation, especially if she was a widow and the only income earner, which was a very common situation due to illness.
You see, Typhoid was rampant during this time, and the first vaccine for this devastating illness wouldn’t be invented until 1896, and it actually wouldn’t be used on the working class until even later.
Living in unsanitary and overcrowded boarding houses allowed disease to spread like wildfire.
If you didn’t get typhoid, it was likely you would contract another Dickensian disease like Scarlet fever, Tuberculosis or Cholera.
While they didn’t always kill you, they did lead to long term health effects, poverty and homelessness.
Living in Victorian London, was like living in 2020 but over and over and over.
A popular book called “How To Live Well On 5 A Week”, published in 1910, provided tips and tricks to help women stretch their money, and was a staple for housewives, but alot of the food storage and products recommended weren’t available 30 years earlier for these victorian women.
I am sure an 1880s equivalent of the book existed, but spending the bit of money you made on one, wouldn’t seem economical to these women.
These books and pamphlets put the blame of poverty on the women themselves, rather than rightfully on the low wages and living conditions.
Again, it was a hop, skip and a jump to living a transient life of begging, odd jobs and the workhouse.
Workhouses were insitutions that were designed to provide shelter, food and work for people who were unable to support for themselves.
Unfortunately, this system was abused by those in charge, and became staples of abuse, beatings, child labour and malnourishment.
If you were lucky enough to have an odd job, like selling matches or scraps of cloth, you may earn enough in a day to rent a furnished room in one of the lodging houses, but that was always a gamble.
It is no surprise that all five of these women found themselves choosing the streets of Whitechapel in London’s East End as their home on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, this left them vulnerable to Jack the Ripper.
The author I mentioned at the beginning of this episode has brought forth what I think is the most sound and credible theory about why each woman was targeted…
Jack didn’t pick them up as prostitutes, though he may have assumed, like everyone else, that they were.
No, her theory states that he caught them asleep on the unlit streets of Whitechapel.
Before they were able to cry out and be heard, or fight to back, it was too late.
Only Mary Jane Kelly was killed indoors, and it is likely she was the only regular sex worker in the group.
So…..who is the infamous Jack?
I don’t want to spend too much time on him, but I will give you a rundown of who I think are the most popular suspects. This doesn’t mean I think they were guilty myself, just that they were popular choices.
The first is Montague John Druitt.
Montague was born August 15th 1857 in Dorset, to a well-respected career focused family.
His father, William Druitt was a medical practitioner and justice of the peace, and pushed young Montague into academics where he shone brightly, specifically in the realm of politics and debate.
Over the years the aspiring solicitor was employed in various places, most notably as an assistant school master of a boarding school, where he worked during the murders
He also helped coach cricket which he himself was naturally gifted at playing.
On November 30th, 1888 Montague was dismissed from his position at the school.
Rumours circled that it was due to homosexual tendancies, which got him labelled as sexually deviant, and therefore a danger to the boys at school.
This is of course likely because of homophobia and not because he was inapropirate.
Whatever really happened, it was an especially hard time for the young man, as his father had recently passed and his mother committed to an insane asylum.
Montague went missing early December 1888, and his body was pulled from the River Thames on December 31st, 1888.
In his pockets were stones, presumably used to help weigh himself down, and a large sum of money which isn’t accounted for, but it was likely his severance from the school.
Due to the timing of his suicide being right after the death of Mary Jane Kelly, Montague quickly became a suspect in the Ripper murders.
Many notable figures accused him, directly and indirectly, despite evidence being circumstancial, and this was likely to put the publics mind at ease.
The second of the top suspects in the Jack the Ripper case is Aaron Kosminski.
Aaron Kosminki was born on September 11th, 1865 in Poland and immigrated to London in the 1880s and settled in the Whitechapel distict where he worked as a barber.
Years after the murders, when Aaron was living in an insane asylum, documents surfaced written by the police about a polish jewish suspect they called Kosminski.
One of the memos stated that this suspect had strong homicidal tendencies and an extreme hatred of women.
In the defense of Aaron, he was considered to be a model resident at the asylum and didn’t show aggression towards women.
The final suspect I want to talk about is Carl Feigenbaum
Carl Feigenbaum was born in the 1840s, in Germany.
Not much is known about his early life, but by the 1880s he was working as a seaman and it is believed he could’ve easily landed near Whitechapel aboard a German merchant ship in 1888.
A former British policeman named Trevor Marriott has dedicated a substantial amount of time linking various murders arround Europe and north america that could’ve been committed by Carl.
Of course, this is circumstancial but his book makes a compelling case….to the point where I strongly believe Carl is Jack the Ripper.
On September 1st, 1894, a woman named Juliana Hoffman was murdered by Carl. He was executed on April 27th, 1896 at Sing Sing Prison in New York.
During his time in prison before his execution however, Carl confessed to his lawyer that he was in fact Jack the Ripper.
Regardless of who Jack actually was, we have to remember everything that led to the deaths of these women. Women who had already been broken by the cruel realities of victorian britain and left to suffer long before their deaths.
Hopefully one day, the identities and stories of these women will be talked about more than the theories about the man who killed them.
Be sure to come back for part two here on Patreon, which will likely be released in April.
This has been the memento mori oracle podcast, part one of two bonus episodes on the Cannonical Five.