Ripping at their rights – Sexual Violence 19th Century London

Robynne O’Sullivan: 113354836The true Jack the Ripper never identifiedFigure 1: The trade mark look of Jack the Ripper roaming the streets of London.

The events of 19th century London shaped and created the London we know today. What I dare to question in this blog may be hard to wrap your mind around at first but stick with me. What if Jack the Ripper was in fact a social reformer? I know, its a crazy thought and almost excusing the actions of a serial killer but his actions may have had more of a positive impact than first meets the eye.

Jam: London Bridge, shown around 1880, is packed with a steady stream of horses and carts

Figure 1: An image of busy London bridge, in an overpopulated, poverty-stricken city in roughly 1880.

Unfortunately, prostitution played a huge part during the 1800’s in London. It became part of the culture and a normality but with prostitution, comes sexually transmitted diseases. In a poverty stricken London, health care was most definitely not at its prime and regardless they were still only making medical discoveries at that time anyway so health care was extremely experimental. This lead to a high death rate because people became weaker and sicker without the correct medical attention after a sexual disease.

Figure 2: A glamourised painting of Jack the Rippers first victim, Mary Ann Nichols

The area in which the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders took place, Whitechapel,  was one of the worst parts of London in  terms of poverty with poor and homeless people residing there. The Murders attracted so much media attention and drew journalists to the area that were absolutely horrified with how these people were living.

 Figure 4: A very poor side of London.

Now after diving a little closer in to the times of Jack the Ripper it is easier to see how he may have been a social reformer even if it was unintentional which is most likely. Jack the Ripper caused fear for prostitutes and also thought them that you can’t trust any man on the street which slowed down the street walking business which in turn helps to battle the passing of sexually transmitted diseases. He also attracted attention to Victorian slums and two decades after the murders the majority of the slums were broken down and demolished. While causing distress, Ripper changed a toxic London shaping it into the city we see today. If it wasn’t for the murders, who knows what state the city would be in by now.

Figure 5: The London we now know and love.


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