Jack The Ripper Of The 1880s: Man Or Midwife

A hundred and thirty year ago, Jack the Ripper committed five grisly murders in Whitechapel in East London. Newspapers began to circulate around the globe in 1888. This spread the news like wildfire. It burns brightly today. They are known as “Ripperologists” and they continue to carry that flame by coming up with sound theories or outlandish ones. Recent scientific evidence supporting a Ripper letter was found to be scientifically supported. This could alter the fate of the most notorious cold case ever: female DNA. I support the notion of a female Jack the Ripper. One theory that Jack was a female murderer, and another that Jack was a midwife is very popular. The third theory I have is that Jack was the Ripper himself.

The oldest theory of female Rippers is the midwife theory. Two letters were published in The Evening News 1888 claiming that the murderer might have been a woman. One, sent by a particular “J.O.” suggested that the murderer may have been a woman who is more likely to be unmarried and would be gentler and less violent but still derive perverse sexual pleasure from the deaths. Doctor Thomas Bond offered professional advice and support to the theory. He released a report listing all of his theories, which he had derived from previous murders and Kelly’s body. His eighth listing stated that the killer had no scientific or anatomical knowledge. They also claimed they did not have the technical know-how that butchers and animal slaughterers might have. This is in direct contradiction to J.O.’s statement and to the midwife theory. Midwives, however, would likely have a different skill set. They wouldn’t have any surgical or butchering knowledge. They would know the locations of the lower and uterine organs. All victims were taken at some point. This allows them to open bodies and remove any organs. Doctors used C-sections in 1888. However, they weren’t as successful today. A doctor would accompany the midwife, so they could observe the operation. This would enable her to examine the anatomy of a body in order to access the uterus. Five women would be mutilated by a midwife. Three motives are most likely to be used by a midwife. First, midwives can be women who are unable or unwilling have children. If the latter, it’s possible that she murdered the women as they were able have children. If she had been able to have children, then it’s possible that she would have killed them. An unmarried woman would not have the ability to choose whether she will have children or when. Prostitutes could have an abortion, and then forgo getting pregnant. The steady, but not sudden rise in the number of male midwives over the past 17 years could also be a possible reason. Fear of losing one of the few jobs that a woman can do could have motivated one to commit murder. Instead of murdering midwives from males, she would kill women and put the blame on a man. Women would fear that a man could be their midwife. This could result in them being forced out of this career. This is problematic because women still make up the majority of the workforce and are not being fired. There wouldn’t have been any need to alarm unless the midwife was paranoid or maniac.

Phoebe Hogg’s baby and herself were murdered in 1890. A woman’s body was found later on, with her head and neck almost cut off, on a Hampstead pile of trach. A baby of 18 months was found murdered in Finchley. Mary Eleanor Wheeler, a 23- to 24-year-old woman, was the murderer. The only thing we know about her childhood is that her father was sentenced to death for her murder. John Charles Pearcey is her only known relationship. Mary kept her surname, John Charles Pearcey, even though they didn’t get married. She moved in to Frank Hogg’s place and began a new relationship. Although both had numerous affairs, their union was harmonious at best. Things started to go downhill quickly. Hogg was planning to marry Phoebe Styles after he had got Phoebe Styles pregnant. Mary was initially hesitant to accept this. However, Hogg convinced Mary after talking that they would continue their relationship sexually. This made Mary happy for quite a while. Mary took action after the birth of her baby. Phoebe came to Mary’s home for tea. There were screams that could be heard until the evening, then they stopped. That is when the body of the baby was discovered. Although her connection to Jack the Ripper was not strong, Phoebe had become a prominent Ripper female suspect due to her vague past. Mary was strong during her trial, and it should also be noted that she could walk around with blood all over her clothes as a woman.

Mary the Ripper would have killed five Whitechapel prostitutes. Frank Hogg is the man who can solve her mystery. Hogg had several affairs just like Mary before he married Phoebe. It is possible that he visited several girls in London while working. Pearcey could have felt the same jealousy as Phoebe did and decided to rid herself of her rival. As stated before, it would have been simple to pass off as an obstetrician. However, most were not licensed and had no papers or badges to show their profession. Mary could have lured the prostitutes in as a friendly gesture and murdered them before returning home. However, this theory is flawed because of the fact that Ripper and Pearcey have no connection. It was just too far for her to drive there and then return to kill prostitutes every weekend.

There are many Rippers on the list, and they have been growing over time. There are many conspiracy theories floating around, but no one suspects the victims. Mary Jane Kelly was Ripper’s last victim and most brutal kill. Kelly was a mystery, her history’muddied’ by what she told people. Kelly’s past is largely traceable to Ireland, where she lived with her relatives. She was a young bride, but was later widowed. After her divorce, she moved around with various men. All this information comes directly from Joseph Barnett. She had been together for a year and was divorced a month prior to the murder. Her appearance, especially her hair, was not clear. Her nicknames, “Fair Emma”, “Ginger” and “Black Mary”, denoted that she was either blonde or ginger. Reports all agreed that she was attractive young lady. Kelly would be able to find a woman who was her same height as her and have blue eyes to murder her. The only thing one needs to do is to make Kelly’s face look completely different. Dr. Bond reports that Kelly’s facial features were ‘gashed in all directions’ with her eyebrows, nose, and eyes being partly removed. Kelly’s head is also completely unrecognizable in Dr. Bond’s autopsy report. Her hair is covered in blood, which is soaking into every inch of her body. Kelly is the only possible explanation for why they thought it was Kelly. Kelly may have lured her victim to her room as protection from the cold, or streets.

Even more confusing is the night of their murder. Kelly was able to meet a man carrying a bag. He seemed closer than a regular client to Kelly, and seemed to be laughing with her, offering to use her handkerchief. They went upstairs to Kelly’s bedroom. That was it. Kelly would not be seen again. It seemed so. Two people saw Kelly in her favorite shawl walking around town that morning around 8 and 10 a.m. later than the body was discovered. Two Kelly neighbors later reported that Kelly’s apartment was being used as a barracks. This would be absurd. Kelly’s body would have been carved out by the murderer, so he wouldn’t leave the scene. This would only be possible if she faked her death and lured in an innocent girl to her body. Faking her death would allow the woman to escape London without alarming anyone and hide any traceable leads.

The question is, however, why? Many reasons can be given, but Kelly may have had mania and believed that killing wok competitors was the only way. Or she could have had a jealousy fit because one or more of the victims served Barnett, one of her ex-lovers. There is another possibility that Kelly was motivated by backwards vigilantism. She may have disliked the work she was doing and believed that killing other prostitutes was the best way to prevent them from becoming sex workers. This theory is not without flaws. It’s not as extensive as I would expect, given my limited resources and the fact that the case has been closed for over 100 years. This theory isn’t true. Jack the Ripper could have stopped killing after they exhausted Kelly.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the identity of Jack the Ripper. But DNA testing allowed us to make a step closer. These theories could all be true, at the very least. Even though the case will never be solved completely, it is still interesting to see the minds of others and to see other people’s theories about Ripper.


BEGG and PAUL BENNETT. ‘Bits Of Body Turning Up Here And There’ in Jack the Ripper, 93-114. Yale University Press released their publication in 2013.

BEGG and PAUL BENNETT. Jack the Ripper: Forgotten Victims, 65-73. Yale University Press published a book in 2013.

Cameron, Deborah. ‘St.i.i.i.ll Coming… The Quest For Jack the Ripper.’ Social text, no. 40 (1994): 147-54.

Curtis, L. Perry. “Responses To Ripper News: Letters to the Editor.” Jack the Ripper, London Press, 238–52. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2001.

Curtis L. Perry. ‘The Kelly Reportage.’ Jack the Ripper, London Press, 186-212. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2001.

Findlay, Ian. 2012. Interview with Mike Covell In 2012, the BBC aired a program titled Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect, which focused on the potential identity of the infamous serial killer. Video.

J.O. 1888 “To THE EDITOR OF “THE EVENING NEWS.” Written October 15 1888. https://www.casebook.org/press_reports/evening_news/18881016.html

Leavitt and Judith Walzer. “The Growth of Medical Authority. Technology and Morals In Turn-of-the-Century obstetrics.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 3 (1987): 230-55.

Schachner, Thomas. 2013. Thomas Bond, M.D. https://www.casebook.org/witnesses/thomas-bond.html

Rose Weitz, Deborah A., Sullivan. ‘THE BIRTH & DESTROY OF INDEPENDENT MIDWIFERY — BRITAIN. AUSTRALIA. & NEW ZEALAND.’ Labor Pains. Modern midwives and home birth, 166-200. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1988.


  • bensonsimpson

    Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at bensonsimpson.com.



Hi! I'm Benson Simpson, a 35-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about educational topics such as student motivation, creativity, and effective teaching techniques. I also run a blog about creativity and learning, which you can find at bensonsimpson.com.