Given what we know

Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter:

Caroline CriadoPerez ‏@CCriadoPerez Jul 29
Given what we know about the women murdered by Jack the Ripper, it is absolutely ludicrous and actually offensive to call them “sex workers”

These were not “empowered” women exercising their “choices” who just loved expressing their sexual freedom. They were desperate and poor.

And they ended up disembowelled in the streets of East London. That was not because people didn’t respect their “agency”. It was because a misogynistic man murdered them.

Seems plausible to me.


  1. sambarge says

    Given that the women who died at the hands of Jack the Ripper were not persons under the law in Britain, it is inappropriate to talk about their agency.

    Unless, of course, your definition of agency is “doing what you can to get a glass of gin, a bed for the night and survive.”

  2. anon1152 says

    They weren’t persons under the law? I need to look into this more. Is this a reference to “the persons case”? I’m not sure about that debate in British history. I know in Canada “the persons case” had to be settled by the British House of Lords… and they ruled in favour of women.
    But even in the Canadian court decision (which didn’t rule in favour of women) the court still said that women were persons. The question was whether or not they were “qualified persons.”

    There can be no doubt that the word “persons” when standing alone prima facie includes women. (Per Loreburn L.C., Nairn v. University of St. Andrews 21). It connotes human beings — the criminal and the insane equally with the good and the wise citizen, the minor as well as the adult. Hence the propriety of the restriction placed upon it by the immediately preceding word “qualified” in ss. 24 and 26 and the words “fit and qualified” in s. 32, which exclude the criminal and the lunatic or imbecile as well as the minor, who is explicitly disqualified by s. 23 (1). Does this requirement of qualification also exclude women?
    Which reminds me of cartoons like this:
    I know that under traditional British law (coverture?) married women had limited rights (since husband and wife became a single person under the law)… but unmarried victims of Jack the Ripper wouldn’t have had that particular problem. That’s not to say they didn’t have all sorts of other problems…
    Obviously, I have a lot more research to do.
    But if there’s a specific thing you had in mind when you said that Jack the Rippers Victims weren’t persons under the law (e.g., the persons case cases, or maybe some more specific laws about prostitutes) I’d be grateful if you’d let me know.

  3. says

    I don’t understand the nuance here. Why would “sex worker” be an incorrect term? I’m sure they had incredibly hard lives and very little choice in the matter, but then so did my ancestors in those days, the coal miners. Or most of the factory workers of the era. It doesn’t change the name of what they did.

  4. johnthedrunkard says

    ‘Sex worker’ would imply some definable ‘work’ being done for a definable recompense. I think the last victim may have been the only one who qualified under that description. The first four, were illiterate widows of agricultural laborers. Homeless, destitute, alcoholics. They were more analogous to beggars than to any kind of ‘worker.’

  5. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Can’t we just compromise, and say they are worth something between 0 and 1 persons.

    Let’s say, 3/5ths……

    …oh wait.

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