More Than Sexploitation

Criticised for exploiting women, the Jack the Ripper Museum is truthful as well as titillating

The Jack the Ripper Museum in Cable Street, East London, was opened on August 2015.

Its opening sparked controversy – the planning application had referred to an East London women’s history museum. Instead, a whole museum devoted to the notorious Victorian series of unsolved sex murders, appeared to compound the continuing sexploitation of women. But the museum itself is more complex and illuminating than this reaction would suggest.

In what might be described as a tribute to the known victims of the murderer known as Jack the Ripper (never caught nor even identified), the six floors of the museum recreate scenes such as the Leman Street police station and the bedroom of Mary Jane Kelly, one of the victims.

This particular tableau brought home to me the sadness and the raw reality. The sound of ‘Violets On My Grave’, a popular Irish song which may have been sung by Mary Jane Kelly the night she was killed, was especially affecting.

Isn’t this the soundtrack to today’s low status sex workers? Faceless. Naked. Silenced.

Danish heavy metal band Volbeat sing it this way:

Oh hear Mary Jane Kelly

So sad and singing sadly

A violet plucked from mother’s grave

Ex soldier Thomas Bowyer found you in the gutter,

The sound of you will be no more.