The cards were stacked against all five of these women. Not only were they born into working-class families, and in a time of poverty, they were also born female. They would never earn the income of a man, and their golden ticket was to get a job in domestic service. It was their duty to serve their husbands, produce children and maintain an unimpeachable character.
As both Polly and Annie had parted with their husbands, society regarded them as ruined women. The same could be said of Kate, who lived in a common-law partnerships and had children out of wedlock. Elizabeth was considered ruined twice; once when she found herself pushed into state-run prostitution in Sweden and a second time when her marriage broke down. Although only Mary Jane was a professional sex worker, the same disdain and disgust that 'respectable society' reserved for a prostitute was levelled the other four women as well. They were all regarded as sexually and therefore morally ruined.
These women are more than just bodies lying on a street, or a bloody bed. They each have their own stories to tell, and Hallie Rubenhold carefully reconstructs the lives of each of the women in her book.
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper is out now.