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Today is a Good Day For Someone Else To Die

Jack the Ripper May Have Been a Woman Named Lizzie

A British author is claiming that after some research, he believes that the notorious (but unsolved) Whitechapel murders were committed not by Jack the Ripper, but by a woman named Lizzie Williams. According to author and former solicitor John Morris, there was so much evidence that pointed to Mrs. Williams as a suspect but was completely ignored by police, who could not believe that a woman could commit such a crime. So, what has convinced Mr. Morris that Mrs. Williams is the Ripper? The fact that three of the murder victims had their wombs removed in the grisly killings, and Mrs. Williams was unable to conceive. What? Yes, that sounds like kind of a sexist conclusion. It’s not just you.

Mrs. Williams was the wife of Sir John Williams, who was a surgeon and a possible suspect in the Ripper murders. In Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman, Morris posits that Mrs. Williams’ inability to have children drove her so mad with rage and jealousy towards other women that she actually killed a bunch of women with (presumptively) working uteri. Five such women were killed over a period of 10 weeks in 1888: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Three of them were found with their wombs cut out of them, and this is what Morris believes is the smoking gun.

You know, your typical hysterical, jealous woman with access to surgical equipment and a small chip on her shoulder.

Well, it wasn’t just that, it was also other elements of the crime scenes that may have suggested the killer was more sensitive to a woman’s modesty than a man would have been. Which is hilarious, because they were murdered and disemboweled. Anyway, Jezebel summarized the other evidence:

“[N]one of the Ripper’s victims were sexually assault[ed]; that personal items were laid out at the feet of Annie Chapman in a ‘typically feminine manner’; that remnants of a cape, skirt, and hat were found in the ashes of Mary Kelly’s fireplace, though Kelly had never been seen wearing them; and that three small buttons from a woman’s boot were found near the body of Catherine Eddowes.”

Mrs. Williams was never questioned in connection to the murders, but suffered a nervous breakdown not long after the murders. She died in 1912. And like Jezebel, we will also say that we have not read Morris’ book, which was written with his father, Byron Morris, so we don’t know that his entire theory is based solely on somewhat sexist assumptions. We’re certainly not saying that there’s no way a woman could have committed such horrific crimes, but Mrs. Williams’ “reason” certainly doesn’t make her the most compelling suspect if her childlessness is all we’re going on here.

The affair Dr. Williams was having with Mary Kelly, however …

(Birmingham Mail via Jezebel)


  • Anonymous

    Any time now, we’re going to see a book claiming Jack the Ripper was Bigfoot.

  • Skemono

     Don’t be silly!  We all know who Jack the Ripper was:

  • Sabreman

    I’m not especially impressed, either: I would want to cross-check this with Philip Sudgeon’s massive accumulation of primary and secondary data (The Complete History of Jack the Ripper), and I realize that profiling assumptions may be regarded as sexist in the other direction, but there are strong indications that the Ripper was seen with his/her victims before several of the killings.

    Granted, it’s possible a woman might dress up like a man (several policemen actually got in trouble dressing as women to flush Jack out {g}), but in those days of high suspicion a prostitute who detected she was being propositioned (or that she had propositioned) a woman dressed strongly like a man (with fake facial hair etc.) would be seriously concerned.

  • mildred louis

    I haven’t read the book nor am I claiming to but am I the only one who doesn’t see these claims as sexist? It sounds interesting and intriguing and truth be told, kind of makes me want to read the book even more.

  • JoAnna Luffman

    No worse than one theory that “Jack” was a man who was unable to, or physically pained getting an erection. Plus, during the period there was a lot of importance placed on a woman able to bear children. Just because now it’s not that way doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have an effect on a woman of that time period. 

    The biggest problem people have when looking back at history is not understanding the context of the time period they look at. It shapes a lot of a person’s view during that period based on how one was raised.

  • Kimberley Bannister


  • Tessa Cavagnero

    Well, it’s a good thing that we’re finally realizing that women are as qualified to be serial killers as men are. But seriously, “typically feminine manner”? Give me a break.

  • Joanna

     but Mrs. Williams’ “reason” certainly doesn’t make her the most compelling suspect if her childlessness is all we’re going on here.”

    Do serial killers ever have a rational reason to kill?

  • ジニー

    I love how you claim that because someone thinks it’s a woman, they’re sexist…

    ..nevermind that assuming it’s a male to begin with is also sexist..

    ..but I guess it doesn’t matter with this site. : 

  • Anonymous

    Read it again, for content this time.  The author’s claims appear sexist because they seem to be based solely on Victorian ideas of women’s hysteria and jealousy over procreation–not because anyone accused a woman.  A few buttons in an alley?  The arrangement of some items near a body?  If that is all you have to go on, you are on thin ice.

  • Anonymous

    Good one Skemono!

  • Anonymous

    Good one Skemono!

  • Anonymous

    I feel the same. The most sexist thing I saw in this article was the police’s original assertion that a woman couldn’t possibly commit such a crime.

    People kill others for all kinds of reasons. Why would it be ridiculous for Mrs. Williams’ inability to conceive to lead her to become a murderer?

    This article reeks of The Mary Sue trying to drum up some feminist outrage. I really wish they’d gone down another path when writing about this book. The idea that Jack the Ripper may have been a woman is pretty interesting, even if the evidence seems a bit shaky.

  • Lissa

    So it’s sexist to consider a woman as a suspect yet you’re linking to Jezebel? Yep, I think that says it all. 

  • Anonymous

    Impotent killers and rapists in the past have been known to use objects to violate their victims. Why is it sexist to consider a woman might do the same thing in her own way? Blaming it on jealousy or hysteria stemming from the attackers gender is sexist, but such behavior from a violent, broken mind is not unheard of.

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, it kind of makes sense to me that someone mentally unstable enough to go on a killing spree would also choose victims based on the functionality of their uterus, on the grounds that they were under the impression that their own wasn’t working properly. So no, I don’t see that particular bit as being sexist at all.

    As for the rest… Different times, and all that. Not saying that it’s right, just that that’s how they thought back then, which influenced their conclusions.

  • Mike

    that doesn’t explain the complete annihilation of mary kelly’s body… i like to think there was more of a story being told at the time than a mad woman’s inability to conceive being taken out on random women who she assumed could. 

  • Avalon

    Sigh. The more I read here, this is more and more turning into “Jezebel for Geeks.” There’s nothing remotely sexist about this at all. Stop trying to look for some offense when there is none.

  • Avalon

     Would heart you so much right now if I could.

  • Evil Troll Wizard

    Yeah I don’t think it’s sexist. I DO think it may be sexists to view these claims as sexist but the claims that a man could do it just because. come on people.  

  • Evil Troll Wizard

    Serial killers ALWAYS have a rational reason to themselves. You’d have to know her psychological state at the time which apparently was a bit sketchy at best. 

  • Scouse

    You’re all idiots. The reason the author is claiming the book is sexist is because of the way in which a woman has been linked to the murders. Maybe Jack the Ripper was a woman, but stating this as fact because of how items were laid out, or assuming it’s because she was jealous of other girls’ babymakers doesn’t provide any sort of conclusive proof. It’s controversial and will sell books. Shit history. Shistory. 

  • Ronald Bouman

    What a load of toss article this is. You sound like you are some raging lesbian yourself, to stick to the sexist conclusions you make. You missed the fact that spit on a stamp from the murderer showed to have female DNA.

  • Ella Woodwerth

    Five such women were killed over a period of 10 weeks in 1888:

  • Anonymous

    Weren’t many of the victims prostitutes? In that society it’s not unlikely someone could have been outraged that these women were having sex outside marriage for money (and perhaps aborting resulting pregnancies) when they couldn’t have children inside marriage.

    We know of serial killers targeting prostitutes due to some “moral” dimension, so both Lizzie and her husband have compelling reasons (for serial killers). The little evidence we have is that out of the pair it’s more likely to have been Lizzie, but there’s no substantive evidence that it was either of them. The same motive would apply equally well to dozens of people in that area of London, it’s just that history remembers these characters.

  • Sabreman

    Jamie implied at the end of her article that the book suggests (confirms??) Lizzie’s husband was having an affair with Mary Kelly. That could trigger annihilation, if Lizzie was already on a tear (so to speak) and then discovered her husband had started seeing MK.

    It doesn’t synch up in other ways with the evidence surrounding MK’s death (and I have no idea what the evidence is, if any, about the affair), but the motivation for such an upscale seems plausible.

    The upscale doesn’t actually need that kind of motivation, though: the Ripper was nearly caught several times on previous murders, all of which occurred in publicly accessible areas (though off the beaten track a bit, with one of the first murders being in a public indoor stairwell), and there are clear indications that being interrupted stopped the Ripper’s processing of the victim (although sometimes a surprising amount of damage was done in only a few minutes in areas without much light.) MK was the first and only victim who took the murderer back to her room for privacy, allowing the Ripper uninterrupted access to her body for several hours after killing her. (The Ripper does seem to have killed them very quickly; the outrages on the bodies followed after death. In a couple of cases where the woman was still alive at being found, not much or any further damage had been done to her.)

  • Laura

    If her motivation for killing being her inability to have children is the *only* reason she’s considered the “best” suspect, yes that smacks of sexism (as does the ‘Jack was impotent’ theory as JoAnna mentioned). Murder could be caused by any motive, and I’m sure there were plenty of impotent men and childless women in those days.

    What isn’t sexist is looking at the mental health of the person who is the suspect. For instance, the woman in question suffered from some kind of mental break (according to the medicine of her time) after the murders were committed. That could be an indication of guilt or perhaps just stress at being considered a suspect. Or maybe it means nothing at all, in 1888 mental health care wasn’t that great, especially concerning women.

    I’m not sure if the ‘childless motive’ is the only reason she’s suspected, but the article is implying that is how the book is. If you really are curious, you should read it and you can judge for yourself if it’s sexist. Let me know how it turns out ^_^

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only one who thought of Madam Red when I read this?

    She was a female doctor who couldn’t conceive and went on the Jack the Ripper rampage in disgust over the prostitutes who COULD conceive choosing to have abortions instead. That and she had a deranged shinigami egging her on.

    Of course Madam Red is completely fictional…

  • Anonymous

    Jack the Ripper *may* have been lots of people. I understand why the case fascinates people, because it’s grisly and because there’s just enough evidence out there to support any theory you care to make up, while not enough to prove any of them. But in the end, we’ll never know for sure who s/he was, and it doesn’t really matter now that everyone involved is long dead anyway. Arguing about it is as pointless as arguing over who wrote Shakespeare.

  • Sylvia

    “What isn’t sexist is looking at the mental health of the person who is the suspect.”

    Well, no. That would be ableist, not sexist.

  • Sylvia

     ”Raging lesbian”.

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • Anonymous

     Except that the DNA results were not forensically reliable.

  • Emily Hill

    I personally like the theory a woman was the murderer after all during that time people thought women were weak ergo Jill the Ripper as they call the theory could do this without fear because no woman be expected heck they have Ciel Phantomhives aunt Madam Red as the kilelr in Black Butler

  • Sheila


  • Sheila

    What I take away from this article is thus: if I ever have a daughter, do not, under any circumstances, name her Elizabeth or any variation thereof.

  • Keiji Miashin

    You got my ‘Black Butler’ into my ‘potentially non-fiction?’

  • Alicia Martell

    There would be sexism involved in the whole infertility deal but not the way the article posits… A woman in the 1800s was seen as unwomanly or even unworthy if she could not fulfil the traditional female roles — and many Victorians saw the #1 role of a woman as motherhood. An infertile woman often would be seen as “lesser than” and many husbands would have felt justified in committing adultery or worse. My point is that if this Lizzie woman WAS infertile, her husband — and anyone else who knew of or suspected her lack of “womanliness” according to the time’s standards – may well have made her life unpleasant because of her status. It’s possible that a woman in that position could’ve developed a complex that made her pathologically hate fertile women, especially if perhaps she suspected that her husband had gotten another woman pregnant.


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  • Cay Helm

    Perhaps it was the pair of them. (2524369)

  • Sabreman

    Among other things, the Ripper could have gotten someone else to lick the stamp. (Also, it depends on the letter. The two most famous ones, where the Ripper moniker were assumed, were widely regarded at the time to have been spoofs written by one of the local journalists, and investigators were pretty sure they even knew which one although they lacked enough evidence to prosecute. Those men definitely had secretaries.)

  • Anonymous

    Where did you hear that DNA was female?

  • Anonymous

    Why not leave all this sexism out of JTR – it’s a series of crimes, not a run for office.

  • Corina Lynn Becker

     well, psychology back then was a bit sketchy in general

  • Tonia Olena Laird

    I don’t find this as being sexist in its assumptions/conclusions. We have to remember the time and place this happened. A barren woman was pitied, at best. Add in someone who sounds like she wasn’t mentally unstable in the first place (nervous breakdown), and it’s a valid theory.

    And for not reading the book but still assuming the authors are sexist? That’s disappointing. It’s kinda like seeing a woman angry and assuming she must be pms’ing because you didn’t take the time to ask her what is really wrong.

  • Spiro D


    Spiro Dimolianis

    With a foreword by Stewart P. Evans

    Jack the Ripper; a name that still conjures up images of horror and the supernatural as the Victorians imagined it. 

    Jack the Ripper, to mainstream Victorian society, was eventually seen as an invisible monster who lurked his East End haunts with stealth and cunning. A living vampire who terrorised the city with horrific acts of blood lust and the taking of organs from his poor prostitute victims. 

    Such recorded stories have given the mystery of a Victorian serial killer a horror genre that has inspired countless books, films, games, theories and has entered mainstream school and university studies. 

    While the supernatural mystique of Jack the Ripper was growing in the press, populace and in novels, Scotland Yard and the Home Office were promoting quite different stories on the identity of the killer. Royal Masonic and other conspiracy theories have too been a fixture of the Whitechapel murders that have grown as a direct result of senior police ambiguity over time.

    The book also considers the source and influence of these conspiracy theories and why they have emerged. The recent release of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch files on the Whitechapel murders are fully examined for the first time and in their Victorian context. What they reveal is extraordinary.

  • Anonymous

    I think is plausible Who are we to brand “sexist” the reasons of a psycopat? I mean Is as plausible as anythinign else, thats the logic of a madmen… ehm I mean madwoman.

    Yeah is sexist, but come on, we are talking about some one murdering prostitutes. If the argument holds It doesnt matter how sexist It seems.

  • Anonymous

    But the childless motive is as reasonable as everything else, you are dealing with an special case, I mean the person that is childless is most important that the fact of beign childless. 

    A small detonant that could put her on top of other suspects, we are not dealing with sane and stable people

  • Laura

    Not investigating her due to mental illness would also be Ableism. The police still need/ed to solve the case. It’s up to the courts to decide if someone is competent.

  • Laura

    Well, you sort of made two arguments. Is she’s a suspect because she’s childless or because she was not “sane” as you said it? The two conditions are not synonymous. Being infertile doesn’t make any person less or more competent. In what way does it make her a good suspect? Over all the women in the area that were also infertile? Over all the men who were impotent? It’s just not a good enough reason to suspect someone of murder. It makes a juicy mystery but this kind of theory doesn’t hold any weight in real detective work. Again, I haven’t read the book, just this article.

  • Anonymous

    The “childless” is the trigger, You see in the early years of psicology every asumption made over the case of an ILL person was generalized over all population. Beign childless is something extremly personal, that is not a big deal Who cares? well that depends on the people, so If the whole argument is well made the childless is as belivable as anything else. Just refering that there is no sexism till proved wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I dont understand… Cause If the case is “everyone should be treated the same” then there would acces for wheel chair.

    Crappy comparision but still, Why would still be Ableism?

  • Sylvia

    I never said the police shouldn’t investigate someone who is mentally ill. I said that choosing to investigate someone based on their mental health is ableist.

    Assuming that someone committed a crime BECAUSE they are mentally ill is ableist. “People kill because they’re crazy” is a false stereotype that leads to discrimination against the mentally ill – in fact, having mental illness actually makes you four times more likely to be victimized yourself.

  • Mimi Johnson

    These allegations aren’t sexist. The Jack the Ripper murders were sex crimes so it’s inevitable that they’re going to be looked at from that angle. Men have murdered random women for resembling other women who rejected them in the past so it’s not a huge stretch to suggest that a woman would murder random women who reminded her of personal trauma. This woman was apparently psychologically disturbed and had motive. Yes, her inability to have children can be considered a plausible motive, especially after taking her mental problems into account. How would that be any less sexist than suggesting that Jack the Ripper was an impotent man who used a knife as a proxy penis? This straw feminist bullshit is what gives feminism a bad name.