Published: 08:50, 04 November 2019
| Updated: 08:50, 04 November 2019
Jack The Ripper has been the subject of countless books, films and TV documentaries over the years. But his victims have been largely over-looked.
That is about to be corrected by a new book published by a former history teacher at Hillview School in Tonbridge.
Robert Hume, whose book The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims, has just been published by Pen and Sword, said: "All too often the lives of the Ripper's victims have been glossed over, the women simply labelled as 'prostitutes'. It is time their stories are told."
Dr Hume was head of history at Hillview from 1985 to 1988. He also taught at Geoffrey Chaucer School in Canterbury and Clarendon House Grammar School in Ramsgate.
He said: "I would often teach the subject of Jack The Ripper in Year 9, and it used to go down a storm, in fact the students wanted to keep going on it for a whole term.
"But sometimes pupils would want to do projects on the women killed, only to find there was very little information available about them."
Dr Hume has now spent some 20 years researching the subject to throw more light on the obscure lives of the five women - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly - and how they came to end up in Whitechapel.
He discovered that for the most part they were mothers and wives, highly regarded by those who know them. The descriptions of them from their contemporaries included terms such as “very clean,” “industrious,” “never used bad language,” “generous”, and “compassionate.”
If they had turned to prostitution it was because they were already victims before their deaths: victims of rampant unemployment, victims of abandonment, of homelessness, or the sudden death of a parent, husband or child.
Dr Hume has written a dozen books previously on subjects as diverse as Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the water closet; Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and Perkin Warbeck, who in the late 1400s made an abortive attempt to claim the English throne.
Dr Hume, 64, now lives in Broadstairs.
The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Dr Robert Hume is available from Pen & Sword History, ISBN: 9781526738608, priced £15.99.
More by this authorAlan Smith