Monday, December 29, 2014

Polly Nichols buys a New Bonnet

Polly Nichols (aka Mary Ann Walker) was born on August 26, 1845). In 1864, she married William Nichols, a printer's machinist, and had five children.

The marriage broke up over allegations of her husband's philandering and her drinking. Her estranged husband stopped paying her support when he learned she was supplementing her income with prostitution.

On August 30, 1888, Polly earned her doss money but spent it on a jolly new bonnet. She earned it again, and then drank it away. Around 1:30 am, she announced her intention of earning the money quickly so that she could have a bed for the night.

Then, she met Jack.

Sometimes you find yourself locked in a circular pattern of a strange obsession.  I've always had a streak of ripperologist in me but it recently began a strong resurgence in my psyche.  The best way for me to exorcise an obsession is to work through it.

What has always bothered me most about the obsession with Jack the Ripper is the emphasis on the Jack portion.  What about Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly?  

Their lives were brutally ended by a monster.  There seems to be an implicit thought line that their lives were lesser because they were prostitutes, because they were older (excepting Mary Jane Kelly), because they were alcoholics, and because they spent most of their lives on the street.

I don't like or accept that implication so decided to start to exorcise my Jack demon by exploring each of the lives of these women that lived and died over a century ago.  They were people.  Their lives had value.

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