Nov 11, 2023
‘Jack the Ripper’ is an internationally recognised name given to the unidentified murderer who killed at least five of the East End’s female residents during the late 1880s.
What is concerning is that these events have been mythologized, told as though they’re fictional tales. This feeds into the trivialization of the very real events that took place, and the wider context of not taking violence against women in the UK seriously, both now and historically.
There is now a surprising portion of east London tourism centred around the unidentified murderer, and back in 2017, Beyond the Street teamed up with local activists to create the first walking tour to challenge the dominant narrative and tell a history that focuses on the women’s lives, walking to places they lived and worked to share fascinating facts about them rather than gruesome photos shown at the sites they were killed.
Through talking about our tour on Twitter, we discovered that supposed historic photos of the five women that are appearing in the news and media are actually not these women at all, barring one photo of a woman named Annie Chapman, which is verified.
When we launched our online version of the walking tour in November 2022, we wanted to make sure we didn’t perpetuate this misrepresentation, and artist Tammy Miller kindly donated her time to produce five illustrations of the women who were murdered with as much accuracy as possible (at times, having no choice but to work from some of their death masks).
Tammy used the 1800s newspaper style of illustration and has done such an amazing job at humanising these five women, whose gruesome death photographs are used for entertainment and tourism. We remember their lives, not their ends.
Tammy told us:
“When I was first asked to create the portraits of the five Whitechapel women killed by Jack the Ripper, I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about them. I had a basic understanding of the murders and the gruesome details, but it was fascinating to learn more about the ladies and sad to realise how much their murderer had been glamourized over the years.
It was a fun challenge piecing together what the ladies looked like based on the stories and odd pictures available. These are the women who should be celebrated, not their murderer. I hope I have succeeded in doing this”.
Tammy was generous in volunteering her time for free. We’re hugely grateful to her for the dedication she gave to the task, and the beautiful depictions of the women that as a charity we would not have been able to realise without her.
Charities do need donations, but they also need the generosity of people’s time and talents – can you think of ways of supporting your local charitable sector?