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A Petticoat Parley: Women in Ripperology

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  • Originally posted by Ms Diddles View Post

    Agreed "prostitute" is a completely acceptable term for a woman of that profession then and now (although I believe "sex worker" is currently de rigeur).

    I have no issue with that word and unlike HR, I'm confident that these women did indeed engage in prostitution.

    Denying this, and playing fast and loose with the facts to fit your own (rather lucrative?!) agenda is, to me doing them a disservice.

    I simply find slogans like "Another Prostitute Murdered" somewhat jarring in this case.

    Not wrong per se, just a bit reductive.

    With the probable exception of Mary, I wouldn't personally describe prostitution as being their "occupation" (in the way that a bank manager is a bank manager or a docker is a docker).

    It was just something that they, along with many others, did when necessity dictated.

    I see it as being a relatively inconsequential facet of their lives rather than a defining feature I suppose.

    I too am unsure of whether "prostitute" would have been regarded as demeaning among the inhabitants of the worst parts of Whitechapel at that time, but I'm confident in stating that the "working poor", middle class and upper class, who would also have been reading the papers, would have regarded it as such (and probably not a little bit distasteful and shocking too).

    Perhaps I am just trying to apply my 21st Century sensibilities to things which occurred in another age though!
    I agree that 'prostitute' doesn't define the victims and maybe my examples were poor, but my point was that 'prostitute' was just a feature they shared. If they'd all been redheads then the headline would have been 'Another Redhead Murdered'. I'm questioning whether the journalists were intentionally trying to demean and denigrate the victims, as HR seems to think, or whether they called them prostitutes because they believed that's what the victims were.

    I have never intended to convey any moral judgement on the victims when I have described them as prostitutes. I described them as prostitutes because I believed and believe that's what they were doing in the places where their bodies were found. HR never managed to find a plausible explanation for where the bodies were found, except the idea that they were sleeping, which is so ridiculous that nobody with a modicum of understanding of the time and place could accept it.

    Comment


    • Yeah PaulB, the theory that the victims were sleeping was just plain nonsense.

      Common sense dictates that humans (and animals too) seek shelter and as much privacy as possible when bedding down for the night.

      One requires no great knowledge of London in the LVP to know this, merely a bit of common sense and a basic understanding of human nature.

      When reading the book, I wondered whether this aspect of HR's narrative would stretch the credulity of her acolytes a bit too far.

      Apparently not!

      As to whether the journalists were actually trying to denigrate the victims by labelling them "Prostitutes", I'd say nah!, not really!

      Sex sells!

      Selecting that one shared aspect of the women's lives would, I suspect, have added to the prurient interest in the case and introduced an extra frisson of excitement and salaciousness.

      My guess is it would have enhanced the already stratospheric newspaper sales even further.








      Last edited by Ms Diddles; 11-13-2021, 11:35 AM.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Ms Diddles View Post
        Yeah PaulB, the theory that the victims were sleeping was just plain nonsense.

        Common sense dictates that humans (and animals too) seek shelter and as much privacy as possible when bedding down for the night.

        One requires no great knowledge of London in the LVP to know this, merely a bit of common sense and a basic understanding of human nature.

        When reading the book, I wondered whether this aspect of HR's narrative would stretch the credulity of her acolytes a bit too far.

        Apparently not!

        As to whether the journalists were actually trying to denigrate the victims by labelling them "Prostitutes", I'd say nah!, not really!

        Sex sells!

        Selecting that one shared aspect of the women's lives would, I suspect, have added to the prurient interest in the case and introduced an extra frisson of excitement and salaciousness.

        My guess is it would have enhanced the already stratospheric newspaper sales even further.
        As for sex selling; it does, of course, but I wonder just how much people found the news stories prurient, salacious or exciting. One comment of Benjamin Leeson's sticks in my mind: '“Another ‘ Jack the Ripper ’ murder! ” Only those who were living at the time and who were old enough to appreciate it can imagine what that meant. When that dread news was flashed round, not merely all London, but all England, was terrified.'

        Prostitutes appear to have been commonplace, not just in the East End, but over all London. They'd been a hot topic for years, what with Josephine Butler's campaigns and Stead's 'Maiden Tribute to Modern Babylon', fears of white slavery, the Cass case, and so on. Prostitution was a huge problem in the latter decades of the 19th century, never far from the news. Maybe it's me, but I find it difficult to imagine that people would find themselves getting too worked up by the newspaper references to such an everyday occurrence as a prostitute when the murders themselves were causing the terror Leeson and others have described.

        Focusing on the victims being prostitutes and suggesting that the police were convinced they were looking for a prostitute killer, even to the point that it didn't occur to them that the victims were sleeping rough, as Rubenhold has done, completely misses the point that the evidence pointed to the victims being prostitutes, witness testimony confirmed that the victims (Eddowes possibly excepted) were prostitutes, and the police weren't obsessed with the idea that they were looking for a prostitute killer (as far as I know the police, like most and perhaps all commentators since, accepted that the murderer killed prostitutes because they were the most accessible women on the streets. That they were or were or prostitutes hardly matters to anyone except HR.



        Comment


        • Originally posted by PaulB View Post

          As for sex selling; it does, of course, but I wonder just how much people found the news stories prurient, salacious or exciting. One comment of Benjamin Leeson's sticks in my mind: '“Another ‘ Jack the Ripper ’ murder! ” Only those who were living at the time and who were old enough to appreciate it can imagine what that meant. When that dread news was flashed round, not merely all London, but all England, was terrified.'

          Prostitutes appear to have been commonplace, not just in the East End, but over all London. They'd been a hot topic for years, what with Josephine Butler's campaigns and Stead's 'Maiden Tribute to Modern Babylon', fears of white slavery, the Cass case, and so on. Prostitution was a huge problem in the latter decades of the 19th century, never far from the news. Maybe it's me, but I find it difficult to imagine that people would find themselves getting too worked up by the newspaper references to such an everyday occurrence as a prostitute when the murders themselves were causing the terror Leeson and others have described.

          Focusing on the victims being prostitutes and suggesting that the police were convinced they were looking for a prostitute killer, even to the point that it didn't occur to them that the victims were sleeping rough, as Rubenhold has done, completely misses the point that the evidence pointed to the victims being prostitutes, witness testimony confirmed that the victims (Eddowes possibly excepted) were prostitutes, and the police weren't obsessed with the idea that they were looking for a prostitute killer (as far as I know the police, like most and perhaps all commentators since, accepted that the murderer killed prostitutes because they were the most accessible women on the streets. That they were or were or prostitutes hardly matters to anyone except HR.


          The Leeson quote is indeed interesting.

          I totally accept that it's nigh on impossible for us 133 years later (and living in such a different society) to fully appreciate the impact that the murders must have had.

          Personally, I suspect a little bit of hyperbole in that quote insomuch as I struggle to believe that a thirty year old man living in York (as a random example) would be "terrified" to read of another murder.

          I imagine that a significant proportion of the newspaper's readership would have been male (ie not on the killers hit list) and situated well away from London and his perceived stalking ground, so I could conceive of such people experiencing a kind of vicarious macabre thrill from their safe remove, as events unfolded, and the fact that the victims were prostitutes may have added to that slightly.

          Mere theorising on my part though!

          Having said all that, I do recall reading that at the time papers were also reporting ripper style killings all over the place (Nicaragua springs to mind as an extreme example!) and the Johnny Gill / Bradford thing, just off the top of my head.

          Perhaps it is more with hindsight that we perceive JtR as specifically a killer of women in Whitechapel during the Autumn of 1888 (I know there are possible outliers. Am just simplifying here!)

          It could be that at the time it was felt that JtR could potentially strike anywhere, and anyone could be a victim resulting in widespread terror as per Leeson.

          Oh, how I sometimes wish it were possible to speak directly to someone who was alive at the time!

          Sure, we have testimony and newspaper reports but they are frequently ambiguous and open to different interpretations (as evidenced by some of the huge threads on here!!)

          I suppose even with a contemporary witness, we would still only get one individual's perception of events, but it would be fascinating to hear nonetheless.


          Comment


          • On a past episode of Rippercast we talked about the media's penchant for labeling unknown serial killers based on a trait that was most common amongst their victims. These 'nicknames' didn't always match the facts about all of the victims (like Kemper 'The Coed Killer,' who also killed a high school student, his mother and his mother's friend), but, on top of being sensational, it did serve another purpose by warning the public as to what the authorities believed were the 'type' of victim the murderer seemed to be targeting.
            Of course Kemper's coed victims weren't "just coeds" (they were children, sisters etc) just as the Ripper's victims weren't "just prostitutes".

            JM
            Last edited by jmenges; 11-13-2021, 02:44 PM.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by jmenges View Post
              On a past episode of Rippercast we talked about the media's penchant for labeling unknown serial killers based on a trait that was most common amongst their victims. These 'nicknames' didn't always match the facts about all of the victims (like Kemper 'The Coed Killer,' who also killed a high school student, his mother and his mother's friend), but, on top of being sensational, it did serve another purpose by warning the public as to what the authorities believed were the 'type' of victim the murderer seemed to be targeting.
              Of course Kemper's coed victims weren't "just coeds" (they were children, sisters etc) just as the Ripper's victims weren't "just prostitutes".

              JM
              Interesting point, Jon!

              One I'd not considered.

              Do you know which episode of Rippercast this was?

              If so, I'll check it out.

              Comment


              • I don’t remember the exact episode, but I’ll try to find it.
                But when the newspaper headline screamed “Another Murdered Prostitute” it attracted the attention of, as Paul said, all of England including, apparently, Mary Kelly, who would have had a more immediate reason to be interested in the news article than say a middle class couple living in York.

                JM

                Comment


                • I believe there are reports of the East End streets becoming deserted, women congregating in groups and even arming themselves. Don’t tell Rubenhold, but it’s possible that the way the press reported the murders saved lives.

                  JM

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by jmenges View Post
                    I don’t remember the exact episode, but I’ll try to find it.
                    But when the newspaper headline screamed “Another Murdered Prostitute” it attracted the attention of, as Paul said, all of England including, apparently, Mary Kelly, who would have had a more immediate reason to be interested in the news article than say a middle class couple living in York.

                    JM
                    Thanks, Jon!

                    Please don't go to any trouble, but if you happen to stumble across that episode, I'd give it a listen.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Ms Diddles View Post

                      The Leeson quote is indeed interesting.

                      I totally accept that it's nigh on impossible for us 133 years later (and living in such a different society) to fully appreciate the impact that the murders must have had.

                      Personally, I suspect a little bit of hyperbole in that quote insomuch as I struggle to believe that a thirty year old man living in York (as a random example) would be "terrified" to read of another murder.

                      I imagine that a significant proportion of the newspaper's readership would have been male (ie not on the killers hit list) and situated well away from London and his perceived stalking ground, so I could conceive of such people experiencing a kind of vicarious macabre thrill from their safe remove, as events unfolded, and the fact that the victims were prostitutes may have added to that slightly.

                      Mere theorising on my part though!

                      Having said all that, I do recall reading that at the time papers were also reporting ripper style killings all over the place (Nicaragua springs to mind as an extreme example!) and the Johnny Gill / Bradford thing, just off the top of my head.

                      Perhaps it is more with hindsight that we perceive JtR as specifically a killer of women in Whitechapel during the Autumn of 1888 (I know there are possible outliers. Am just simplifying here!)

                      It could be that at the time it was felt that JtR could potentially strike anywhere, and anyone could be a victim resulting in widespread terror as per Leeson.

                      Oh, how I sometimes wish it were possible to speak directly to someone who was alive at the time!

                      Sure, we have testimony and newspaper reports but they are frequently ambiguous and open to different interpretations (as evidenced by some of the huge threads on here!!)

                      I suppose even with a contemporary witness, we would still only get one individual's perception of events, but it would be fascinating to hear nonetheless.

                      I was alive when the Yorkshire Ripper murders took place. I was living in Devon, but I remember only too well how people were frightened even there, and when I moved to Leeds I was told about how businesses organised transport to take their female staff home, especially if they worked late in pubs or whatever. Husbands left work early to collect their wives from work, fathers and mothers did the same and made sure their children were collected from school and night classes. Men weren't the targets, but their mothers, wives and daughters could have been, and they were frightened for them. And this was the 1970s when people were learning about this sort of crime, and the term serial killer was coined. Imagine what it was like in 1888, when people didn't know about 'motiveless murder', when the idea that there was someone out there who you'd never harmed, never spoken to, and never even met, who wanted to kill you for no reason at all.

                      It's very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of people living back then. I don't think people living in York or wherever were frightened by murders committed over two hundred miles away, but I feel sure they would have been frightened by idea of a 'motiveless murder', of someone killing women at random. In fact, I think 'fear' is a much-overlooked player in the Jack the Ripper story.

                      You are right that we only get perceptions sometimes.




                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by PaulB View Post

                        I was alive when the Yorkshire Ripper murders took place. I was living in Devon, but I remember only too well how people were frightened even there, and when I moved to Leeds I was told about how businesses organised transport to take their female staff home, especially if they worked late in pubs or whatever. Husbands left work early to collect their wives from work, fathers and mothers did the same and made sure their children were collected from school and night classes. Men weren't the targets, but their mothers, wives and daughters could have been, and they were frightened for them. And this was the 1970s when people were learning about this sort of crime, and the term serial killer was coined. Imagine what it was like in 1888, when people didn't know about 'motiveless murder', when the idea that there was someone out there who you'd never harmed, never spoken to, and never even met, who wanted to kill you for no reason at all.

                        It's very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of people living back then. I don't think people living in York or wherever were frightened by murders committed over two hundred miles away, but I feel sure they would have been frightened by idea of a 'motiveless murder', of someone killing women at random. In fact, I think 'fear' is a much-overlooked player in the Jack the Ripper story.

                        You are right that we only get perceptions sometimes.



                        I lived in Yeadon, a small town between Leeds & Bradford, while the Yorkshire Ripper was on the prowl. Darts night was a regular thing on Mondays at our local, but after each murder the streets were deserted, it was tough to get two teams together to play. Walking home from the pub at closing time was often eerie especially when the fog came in from the Tarn (local pond in Yeadon).
                        Shopkeepers complained how their customers didn't come out anymore after five o'clock, back in those days local shops didn't open after 6:00 anyway, but in the days following murder it was especially strange, both Taxi drivers & Bus drivers all complained how nobody wants to go anywhere at night.
                        We had detectives call at our house, they were going door-to-door, it was all over the papers. They even showed up at work and everyone was called to the canteen to hear what they had to say.

                        Regards, Jon S.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by PaulB View Post

                          I was alive when the Yorkshire Ripper murders took place. I was living in Devon, but I remember only too well how people were frightened even there, and when I moved to Leeds I was told about how businesses organised transport to take their female staff home, especially if they worked late in pubs or whatever. Husbands left work early to collect their wives from work, fathers and mothers did the same and made sure their children were collected from school and night classes. Men weren't the targets, but their mothers, wives and daughters could have been, and they were frightened for them. And this was the 1970s when people were learning about this sort of crime, and the term serial killer was coined. Imagine what it was like in 1888, when people didn't know about 'motiveless murder', when the idea that there was someone out there who you'd never harmed, never spoken to, and never even met, who wanted to kill you for no reason at all.

                          It's very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of people living back then. I don't think people living in York or wherever were frightened by murders committed over two hundred miles away, but I feel sure they would have been frightened by idea of a 'motiveless murder', of someone killing women at random. In fact, I think 'fear' is a much-overlooked player in the Jack the Ripper story.

                          You are right that we only get perceptions sometimes.



                          Yeah, I was 5 in 1981 when Peter Sutcliff was finally arrested.

                          I grew up in Stamford Bridge (around an hour away from Leeds, and about eight miles outside of York), and whilst I obviously had no great insight into what was going on (few five year olds do!!!), I can still recall the blanket coverage on the national and local news, and having an acute awareness that there was a bad man out there, far too close for comfort.

                          I remember a sense of relief shared by the whole community (my self and my parents included) when it was finally announced that he was caught.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by jmenges View Post
                            Since we've waded briefly into the topic of non-germane source material cited by Rubenhold to bolster one of her proclamations, another example appears when she is discussing John Kelly's inquest testimony and Kelly is questioned about the meaning of "walking the streets". He first said he, by defending Kate's honor(HR) didn't want to have her 'walking the streets' due to their lack of doss money. When asked to clarify what he meant by 'walking the streets' Kelly said "Many a time we have not had the money to pay for our shelter, and have had to tramp about".
                            Rubenhold goes on to say that the term "walking the streets" is described by William Booth in his book 'Darkest England' as (HR)"rough sleepers' never ending nocturnal quest for somewhere quiet to rest before a patrolling constable moved them along."
                            What Rubenhold doesn't mention is that when talking about the poor "walking the streets", William Booth is specifically referring to working men who stay up all night walking the streets so that they can be ready to find work at the crack of dawn.
                            As far as I know, there is no evidence that any of the Canonical Five victims of Jack the Ripper were workingmen, nor do I know of any evidence that any of them were planning to walk the streets so that they might find employment first thing the following morning.

                            JM
                            I think that HR has so convinced herself of the story she has created around the victims. Nothing including clear evidence would convince her otherwise. The sad thing is that her followers seemed to have done the same thing. I wonder what any of them think if/when they read another book on the topic? Though I don't think HR will be encouraging 'further reading' any time soon.
                            Best Regards,

                            Tristan

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by PaulB View Post

                              Yes.

                              HR states on page 15, ‘Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes, or so it has always been believed, but there is no hard evidence to suggest that three of his five victims were prostitutes at all.’ (The three were Nichols, Chapman and Eddowes).

                              That the victims were or weren't prostitutes only matters insofar as that affects the killer's profile, but Rubenhold says that it is important to Ripperologists that Jack was a prostitute killer, something into which she reads much about attitudes towards sex, women, mysogeny and violence against women. The reality, of course, is that it isn't in any way necessary to Ripperologists that the victims were prostitutes, and the only person to whom it does matter is HR, whose whole thesis is largely based on her claim that they weren't.

                              This is what I will never understand, Paul. What difference does it make, in HR's head, whether the victims had to be out on the streets at all hours - and therefore vulnerable to a worse type of male predator than the usual seeker of affordable sex - because they had spent their doss money on booze and had nowhere else to sleep, or because they had an immediate need for money for a bed, or their next meal, and limited ways to earn it quickly enough to survive from one day to the next. Surely nobody would condemn the women for how they managed to stay alive until their killer decided for them how they should die. But Hallie apparently sees it as a lifestyle choice such women had over their own bodies, with some prepared to sell and others not. It's as if the men who preyed every night on such women had no malign influence over them, and it was purely down to the morals of the female in question, whether she chose to booze her way out of a bed, or to screw her way into one. Hallie evidently finds the latter more distasteful to her sensitive 21st century eyes than the former.

                              This says far more about Hallie than the Ripperologists she had to round up in order to condemn as an entire group. She should have written a book condemning the males in Victorian society for creating the perfect hunting ground for Jack.

                              Not sexy enough though.

                              Love,

                              Caz
                              X
                              Last edited by caz; 11-16-2021, 05:47 PM.
                              "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov


                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by caz View Post

                                This is what I will never understand, Paul. What difference does it make, in HR's head, whether the victims had to be out on the streets at all hours - and therefore vulnerable to a worse type of male predator than the usual seeker of affordable sex - because they had spent their doss money on booze and had nowhere else to sleep, or because they had an immediate need for money for a bed, or their next meal, and limited ways to earn it quickly enough to survive from one day to the next. Surely nobody would condemn the women for how they managed to stay alive until their killer decided for them how they should die. But Hallie apparently sees it as a lifestyle choice such women had over their own bodies, with some prepared to sell and others not. It's as if the men who preyed every night on such women had no malign influence over them, and it was purely down to the morals of the female in question, whether she chose to booze her way out of a bed, or to screw her way into one. Hallie evidently finds the latter more distasteful to her sensitive 21st century eyes than the former.

                                This says far more about Hallie than the Ripperologists she had to round up in order to condemn as an entire group. She should have written a book condemning the males in Victorian society for creating the perfect hunting ground for Jack.

                                Not sexy enough though.

                                Love,

                                Caz
                                X
                                Hi Caz!

                                I know this was addressed to Paul, so I hope you don't mind me butting in briefly!

                                I just see it as part of HR's messiah complex.

                                It suits her agenda as lone moral guardian of the victim's memory.

                                The misogynistic field of Ripperology perceives these women as "mere prostitutes" and glorifies their killer, but she is here with her revolutionary new book to set the record straight.

                                It's a convenient, simplistic and I suspect lucrative narrative.

                                It's also, in my experience, completely untrue.

                                FWIW I believe those interested enough in the subject will read more widely and realise what's going on here.

                                I mean, if I recall correctly, my first Ripper book was Cornwell. On reading it, I initially thought " Wow! It was Sickert! Who'd a thunk it?!".

                                It did get me interested, but as soon as I read some more, I saw it for the hogwash it was.

                                The same will happen here.

                                Butting out........


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