life had been rough for Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols. She was daughter of
locksmith Edward Walker, never wealthy but never starving.
What if "Jack the Ripper" had been
killed by a prostitute?
She married William Nichols, a printer's
machinist, in 1864, and the couple had five children before falling out.
Familial arguments blurred the truth of the matter (whether William had
had an affair or whether Polly had deserted him), but by 1881, Polly was
living practically on the streets. She had lived with her father before an
argument drove them apart, dwelt in a workhouse after being arrested for
sleeping in Trafalgar Square, and left a position as a servant while
stealing clothes. Much of her life was spent deep in alcoholism, which had
driven Polly to prostitution for survival.
On the night in question, Polly had earned well more the fourpence needed
for a bed for the night, but had spent the money on alcohol. Returning to
the streets, she was met by her roommate Nelly Holland, who, detecting an
eerie something in the greenish Whitechapel air, warned her to be careful.
Usually Polly would disregard the warning as a pleasantry, but tonight it
gave her pause.
"Identity revealed! The massacres stopped" -
about three o'clock in the morning, Polly was approached by a man she
described as "a right gentleman" who called from his carriage. They went
to Buck's Row, where the man suddenly pulled a knife. Polly, having been
on guard, saw the man and pulled back. Being old, he missed her by far,
and Polly attacked him with her fingernails, slaps, and punches. The
carriage driver gave a yelp, the old man pleaded with groans, and Polly
escaped into the night.
"I would like that we can say Jack the Ripper was
an old man, right gentleman ... or anything \"for sure\" about him... It
would really change the course of the events if the first victim had
survived" - reader's comment
She hid until dawn in various alcoves
around London before finally returning to her lodging house, still
penniless. Nelly greeted her, and the two discussed Polly's night. With
such closeness to death, Polly had reexamined her life, which she found
suddenly very lacking. Her story would be picked up by newspapers on what
was to become a month of slow news. Giving up alcohol, she returned to the
workhouse, later taking a job as a housekeeper and eventually reuniting
with her husband.
"I like this.Better written than most." - reader's
Also on this day, famed physician Sir William Gull died of
stroke. He had battled the disease for a year with several attacks, and
this seemed the worse with a seizure that produced bruises and scratches
where he must have thrown himself against the headboard of his bed. The
acclaimed physician was known for his research in paraplegia, anorexia
nervosa, and kidney disease.
In 1871, he had served as Physician Ordinary to the Prince of Wales,
saving the future king through care during a particularly nasty case of