Hallie Rubenhold wins The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, 2019
Hallie Rubenhold has tonight been named the winner of the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for The Five: The Untold Lives of Women Killed by Jack the Ripper published by Doubleday.
Social historian Hallie Rubenhold reconstructs the lives of five of the women killed by the notorious Jack the Ripper, often from as little as the DNA of a single hair. The Five is a riposte to prevailing Ripper myths, giving voice to the murdered women and painting a picture of the precariousness of working class lives in Victorian London.
In an interview given for the awards ceremony, Hallie Rubenhold comments:
“These were ordinary people, like you and I, who happened to fall upon hard times. There’s so much in their stories that we can take away that tells us about how we live today: everything from homelessness to addiction to domestic violence. And people become victims because society doesn’t care about them.”
Hallie Rubenhold is a social historian and an authority on women's lives of the past. She has worked as a curator for the National Portrait Gallery and as a university lecturer. Her books include Lady Worsley's Whim, dramatized by the BBC as The Scandalous Lady W, and Covent Garden Ladies: The Extraordinary Story of Harris's List, which inspired the ITV series Harlots. She lives in London with her husband.
Stig Abell chair of the judges, said: “This book seemed to synthesise all that we were looking for in a winner, indeed in any great book: at a simple level, it was beautifully written and impressively researched; and more broadly it spoke with an urgency and passion to our own times. Brilliance meeting relevance. It is a book we would all give to a friend for Christmas, knowing that they will have finished it with pleasure by New Year's Day.”
The 2019 judging panel is chaired by Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell. He is joined by Dr Myriam Francois, TV producer and writer; Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, professor of English Literature; Frances Wilson, critic and biographer; Petina Gappah, writer and lawyer and Dr Alexander Van Tulleken BMBCh MPH, doctor and TV presenter.
Mark Urquhart, Partner at Baillie Gifford, said: “The quality and variety of the shortlist is remarkable - challenging our political, social and historical perspectives and expanding our understanding of the world. Non-fiction writing is in a great place and we are proud to support this important literary award. Congratulations to Hallie Rubenhold. Reading her extraordinary book or any of the books shortlisted is time well spent.”
Alongside The Five: The Untold Lives of Women Killed by Jack the Ripper the other titles on the shortlist were:
- Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (William Heinemann)
- On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons, Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus)
- The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, William Feaver (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Maoism: A Global History, Julia Lovell (The Bodley Head)
- Guest House for Young Widows, Azadeh Moaveni (Scribe UK)