It is a sad fact of the Jack the Ripper murders that his victims – Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly – often get forgotten in the annual rush to hunt down and identify the, so far, nameless miscreant who was responsible for the Whitechapel Murders.
Yet, these were very real women, almost all of whom had families, and almost all of whom had turned to drink when tragedy and hardship, and sometimes both, touched their lives. It is a sobering (no pun intended) thought that, in at east three of their cases, they met with and were murdered by their killer (or killers) because they lacked a mere fourpence to pay for a bed in a Common Lodging House.
Yet, their murders, which were indirectly caused by official arrogance and bureaucratic incompetence, not to mention a welfare system that was none existent, were and, still are ignored by officialdom.
Take a walk around the streets of the East End of London and you will see plaques galore to all manner of people whose contribution to improving the lives of those who lived in the area was negligible. Indeed, in a large number of cases you’d be hard pressed to know anything about them!
Yet you will find very little mention of the names of the five victims of Jack the Ripper, despite the fact that, as was constantly reported in the press at the time of their murders, by their deaths, they probably did more to expose the horrific social conditions in the area than the all written words by philanthropists combined.
So, why is there no memorial to them?
Alongside Christchurch Spitalfields, there is a small park where a discreet and respectful memorial could be erected.
The area is now awash with artists and sculptors – Gilbert and George, Tracey Emin and many other arterati live, or have lived, very close to this park – so getting one of those to put something into the area by creating a memorial to five of its more tragic bygone residents wouldn’t be a bad thing.
A memorial would also serve as a reminder of a past when society as a whole turned a blind eye to the plight of its poor, a situation which, in several respects, is being echoed in the 21st Century.