Podcast Review: Bad Women: The Ripper Retold

The podcast Bad Women: The Ripper Retold is about the victims of the serial killer Jack the Ripper. The host is Hallie Rubenhold, who is an award-winning historian, author, and consultant. Rubenhold wrote a book called  The Five, which is about the lives of the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper. In this podcast, she dispels myths about the Ripper. Rubenhold tells the story of each of the victims. Rather than just being labeled as prostitutes, this podcast narrates their complex lives. So far there have been two episodes in this series. Bad Women is a historically accurate podcast that will fascinate those interested in true crime and history.

Rubenhold begins the podcast by talking about the myths of the Jack the Ripper murders. She talks about “ripperologists,” who are amateur historians claiming to be authorities on all things Ripper-related. A long list of people believed to be the real Jack the Ripper is read. Queen Victoria was even suspected! Interviews with historians and scientists in the podcast dispel myths about the Ripper’s identity. Historians talk about the difficulty of solving murders in the 19th century due to the limits of forensic science at that time. Most killers were caught through witness testimony or even by catching them in the act of murdering someone. Listeners will be enlightened by the discussions with trained historians and scientists. They will understand why Jack the Ripper was not caught and will probably never be identified.

An interesting part of the podcast is when Rubenhold talks about the backgrounds of the women who became Jack the Ripper’s victims. She details their families, boyfriends/husbands, and where they lived. You learn about the rebellious personalities of some and how they wanted to make their own way in the world without the help of their families. All of the women ended up in the Whitechapel district of London, which at that time was rampant with poverty. To make you feel as if you are there, sounds of a city and actors speaking in English accents are added in the background to parts of the podcast. This brings the harsh reality of Victorian England home. Through the descriptions of the lives of the women, you get to know them as people rather than simply as crime victims.

Rubenhold talks about sexism in parts of the podcast. She describes how murders of prostitutes were sometimes overlooked, and how such women were often victims of murder because they were viewed as easy targets by men. Rubenhold additionally talks about her experiences with sexism when giving talks about the Ripper case and in online conversations about the topic. When she questioned the research of “ripperologists,” they responded with crude, sexist remarks. Some of them have more interest in Jack the Ripper and care little about the victims! Rubenhold makes excellent points; although these parts of the podcast are infuriating, they are important to listen to.  

Bad Women: The Ripper Retold is an expertly crafted podcast that is interesting and educational. Along with the details of the Jack the Ripper murders, you learn about the societal aspects of Victorian England. There are some discussions of Jack the Ripper, but Rubenhold mostly talks about the female victims, who are sometimes overlooked by true-crime enthusiasts. This podcast does an excellent job of combining the genres of history, true crime, and women’s studies. Once you start listening to this podcast, you will not want to stop.

Bad Women: The Ripper Retold can be listened to on apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Overcast. It is also available on the Pushkin website. This podcast contains graphic descriptions of crime scenes, and is recommended for adults only.