This Day in History – September 30th, 1888

Recently there was a slew of coverage for Russell Edwards’s “incontrovertible” evidence that revealed the infamous Jack the Ripper to be Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish émigré and lapsed hairdresser. While the identity of the first “celebrity” serial killer may or may not be a mystery, the identity of his victims is not. On this day in 1888 he claimed the lives of both Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, his third and fourth victims.

Elizabeth StrideElizabeth Stride was nicknamed “Long Liz”. Several explanations have been given for this pseudonym; some believe it came from her married surname “Stride” because a stride is a long step, while others believe it was because of her height, or the shape of her face. Stride was born Elisabeth Gustafsdotter in Torslanda, Sweden on November 27th, 1843 and moved to Britain in 1869. She was married to a ship carpenter called John Thomas Stride, but by 1881 they were separated.

After separating from her husband, she lived in a common lodging-house in Whitechapel, with charitable assistance once or twice from the Church of Sweden in London, and from 1885 until her death lived much of the time with a local dock labourer, Michael Kidney, in Devonshire Street. She earned some income from sewing and housecleaning work. An acquaintance described her as having a calm temperament, though she appeared numerous times for being drunk and disorderly at Thames Magistrates Court, where she gave her name as Anne Fitzgerald. She learned to speak Yiddish, as well as English and Swedish.

Catherine_EddowesCatherine Eddowes, also known as “Kate Conway” and “Kate Kelly”, after her two successive common-law husbands, was born in Graisley Green, Wolverhampton on April 14th, 1842. Her parents, tinplate worker George Eddowes and his wife Catherine (née Evans), had ten other children. The year after her birth, she and her family moved to London, but she later returned to Wolverhampton to gain employment as a tin plate stamper.

Losing this job she took up with an ex-soldier called Thomas Conway in Birmingham and moved with him to London. By him she had three children: a girl and two boys. Taking to drink, she split from the family in 1880 and a year later was living with a new partner named John Kelly at Cooney’s common lodging-house at 55 Flower and Dean Street, Spitalfields, at the centre of London’s most notorious criminal rookery. Here she took to casual prostitution to pay the rent. To avoid contact with his former partner, Conway drew his army pension under the assumed name of Quinn, and kept their sons’ addresses secret from her.

At the time of her death she was described as being five feet tall, with dark auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a tattoo that read “TC”, for Tom Conway, in blue ink on her left forearm. Friends of Eddowes described her as “intelligent and scholarly, but possessed of a fierce temper” and “a very jolly woman, always singing”.

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