Fiona Sampson is an award-winning UK author who is a contributor to Issue 8 of Interlitq, Interlitq‘s “English Writers 1”, Interlitq‘s “Poetic Voices”, and the subject of an Interlitq Featured Interview.
Award winning writer and poet, Fiona Sampson MBE, tells us all about her new book ‘In Search of Mary Shelley’, and corresponding exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, to celebrate 200 years since the publication of Mary’s iconic novel ‘Frankenstein’. The Wordsworth Trust’s exhibition ‘In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein’ is open until 27 August 2018. For more information about visiting: www.wordsworth.org.uk.
Do we all have a subconscious human tendency to take murder victims less seriously if they worked in the sex trade?
Hallie Rubenhold, author of this powerful and brilliantly researched examination of Jack The Ripper’s five named victims — ‘prostitutes’ whose throats he slit in the nights of autumn 1888 in Whitechapel — certainly believes so.
Soon after the murders, a reader wrote to The Times observing that the Ripper ‘at all events has made his contribution towards solving the problem of clearing the East End of its vicious inhabitants’.
Even nowadays, we tend to brush such women aside. The judge in the 2008 Ipswich serial murders trial felt the need to instruct the jury to ‘lay aside their prejudices’ against the five victims who were prostitutes.
Rubenhold forces our fascination away from the murders and tells the life stories of the Ripper victims, each loaded with pathos and tragedy even before they were murdered.
She has two chief messages to drive home to us: first, that there’s no evidence that three out of the five women were prostitutes at all, and second, that even if they were, they deserve exactly as much attention as any murder victim.
Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate, and Mary Jane died at the ages of 43, 47, 45, 46 and 25 respectively. They were daughters and sisters, wives and mothers.
In each story, a little girl is born, full of promise and hope, and you wait for the dreaded lurch in their lives that’s going to take them to Whitechapel, to homelessness, to misery and to gruesome death.
This book immerses you deeply in the reality of being destitute in Victorian London. Each morning, 70,000 people in the city woke up having no idea where they would lay their heads that night.