JACK THE RIPPER’S “UNFORTUNATE” VICTIMS: PROSTITUTION AS VAGRANCY, 1888-1900
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In the wake of the series of 1888 murders attributed to the unknown killer called “Jack the Ripper,” Victorian cultural authorities, and newspapers in particular, spent a great deal of time meditating on the social problem posed by the class of low-end, urban prostitutes, from which the Ripper’s victims were drawn. An analysis of the metropolitan press coverage of the Ripper murders shows that journalists treated prostitution as a class problem as much as a moral evil. Newspapers identified the Ripper victims as members of the same class of vagrants from which Scotland Yard drew the majority of their Ripper suspects. Victorians’ conflation of this group of prostitutes with the men who also engaged in unconventional and unreliable forms of work suggests that Victorian prostitution might be reconceptualised not only as a gendered and pathologized form of sexual deviance, but also as a partially normalized form of labour. This thesis therefore analyses the Victorian media furor surrounding the Ripper murders as a means of assessing the importance of class and labour in studies of nineteenth-century prostitution.