30 episodes

The streets of wartime London are pitch black and the darkness offers cover to a murderer every bit as terrible as Jack the Ripper. During one awful week in February 1942 he viciously attacks women night after night. But the victims of the so-called Blackout Ripper are now all but forgotten.  

In this season of Bad Women, historian Hallie Rubenhold and criminologist Alice Fiennes share new details from the archives to tell the extraordinary and moving stories of the women who died and why their deaths were swept from view.    

And don't miss season one of Bad Women about a cold case like no other. In the fall of 1888, five women were brutally murdered in the slums of London. But everything you think you know about Jack the Ripper and those murdered women is wrong. Hallie reconstructs the lives of the five victims - revealing the appalling treatment they faced as women in the 1880s, and completely overturning the accepted Ripper story.

Bad Women: The Blackout Ripper Pushkin

    • True Crime
    • 4.6 • 1K Ratings

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The streets of wartime London are pitch black and the darkness offers cover to a murderer every bit as terrible as Jack the Ripper. During one awful week in February 1942 he viciously attacks women night after night. But the victims of the so-called Blackout Ripper are now all but forgotten.  

In this season of Bad Women, historian Hallie Rubenhold and criminologist Alice Fiennes share new details from the archives to tell the extraordinary and moving stories of the women who died and why their deaths were swept from view.    

And don't miss season one of Bad Women about a cold case like no other. In the fall of 1888, five women were brutally murdered in the slums of London. But everything you think you know about Jack the Ripper and those murdered women is wrong. Hallie reconstructs the lives of the five victims - revealing the appalling treatment they faced as women in the 1880s, and completely overturning the accepted Ripper story.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    S2 E1: Murders in a City Without Light

    S2 E1: Murders in a City Without Light

    London's West End - once a glittering Mecca of nightlife - is pitch black. The lights are off to hide the city from waves of Nazi bombers - but in the darkness a merciless killer is hunting down the women of this district. 

    Join hosts Hallie Rubenhold and Alice Fiennes as they walk those bomb-damaged streets to tell the stories of the women targeted by this "Blackout Ripper" over the course of just one week in 1942. 

    You'll glimpse inside the theaters, jazz joints and dive bars of Piccadilly and Soho; witness deadly air raids; and criss cross the blacked out streets where a serial killer lurks. You'll learn too of the hardships that blighted the lives of many women in wartime, and the extent of the violence they faced at the hands of men from their own side in the conflict. 

    Sources: 

    Bone, James. London Echoing (London: Jonathan Cape, 1948)

    Caddick-Adams, Peter. Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day (London: Penguin Random House, 2019).

    Cederwell, William. Reading London in Wartime: Blitz, the People and Propaganda in 1940s Literature (New York: Routledge, 2018). 

    Farson, N. Bomber’s Moon (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1941).

     
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 41 min
    BONUS: Black GIs and their "Brown Babies"

    BONUS: Black GIs and their "Brown Babies"

    Unlike white GIs, it was made virtually impossible for African-American servicemen to marry the women they met and fell in love with in the UK during World War Two. If these couples had children, those so-called "Brown Babies" were stigmatized and scorned - with many ending up in grim children's homes. 

    Pausing the story of the Blackout Ripper - this episode examines the experiences of those Black GIs, their white partners and two "Brown Babies" - Leon Lomax and Terry Harrison - who have both spent decades trying to piece together their family histories. 

    Professor Lucy Bland's work can be seen here: http://www.mixedmuseum.org.uk/brown-babies

    Further reading:

    Bland, Lucy. Britain's 'Brown Babies': The stories of children born to black GIs and white women in the Second World War. (Manchester University Press), 2019

    Osur, Alan. Blacks in the Army Air Forces During World War II. (Office of Air Force History), 1977

    Schindler, David and Westcott, Mark ‘Shocking Racial Attitudes: Black G.I.s in Europe’, The Review of Economic Studies. (University of Oxford), 2021
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 33 min
    S2 E2: The Death of a Quiet Druggist

    S2 E2: The Death of a Quiet Druggist

    Evelyn Hamilton has annoyed her bosses in the male-dominated world of pharmacy - they find her quiet and independent nature mystifying and odd. After an unhappy stint at a druggist shop outside London, she's landed a new job and a fresh start in a faraway town. 

    In February 1942, Evelyn sets out on her long journey – just as the Blackout Ripper is hunting for his first victim… 

    Join hosts Hallie Rubenhold and Alice Fiennes as they traces Evelyn's life and struggles; and with the help of Lauren Ober (host of The Loudest Girl in the World podcast) examine why the quiet pharmacist's demeanour provoked such hostility.  

    Sources:

    Andrews, Maggie and Lomas, Janis. The Home Front in Britain: Images, Myths and Forgotten Experiences since 1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

    Diniejko, Dr. Andrzej. ‘A Chronology of Social Change and Social Reform in Great Britain in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’, The Victorian Web, 2014

    Neale, Alexa. ‘Case Files For Murder Trials: The Case of Cyril Johnson’, “Domestic Murder” She Wrote, September 2016

    Webb, Laura and Webb, Kevin. ‘Selina Cooper: The Story of a Working Class Suffragist’, March 2019, UK Vote 100
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 40 min
    S2 E3: The Butchers of Germany

    S2 E3: The Butchers of Germany

    Evelyn Oatley dreams of becoming a stage star in London's glamorous theaterland. It's a world away from her grim provincial upbringing. The daughter of a German immigrant, her troubled home life was compounded by a wave of anti-German rioting that broke out during World War One.    

    Tiring of both her job at a textile mill and her relationship with a local farmer, Evelyn ran off to London and transformed herself into budding starlet "Lita Ward". But she found neither fame nor fortune there... only danger.  

    Sources:

    Andrews, Maggie and Lomas, Janis. The Home Front in Britain: Images, Myths and Forgotten Experiences since 1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

    Arthur, Sue. ‘Blackpool Goes All-Talkie: Cinema and Society at the Seaside in Thirties Britain’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 29, No. 1, March 2019.

    Denness, Zoe. ‘“A Question which Affects our Prestige as a Nation”: The History of British Civilian Internment’, PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, October 2012.

    Denness, Zoe. “Gender and Germanophobia: The Forgotten Experiences of German Women in Britain, 1914–1919’ in: Panayi, Panikos (Ed.). Germans as Minorities during the First World War: A Global Comparative Perspective (Farnham, Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014).

    Eyles, Allan. ‘Cinemas and Cinemagoing: The Rise of Cinemas’, BFI Screenonline, 2014.

    Higginbotham, Peter. ‘Boarding Out (Fostering)’, Children’s Homes.

    Hill, Hector. ‘Russell Street Picturehouse’, Cinema Treasures.

    Lassandro, Sebastian. Pride of Our Alley: The Life of Dame Gracie Fields Volume 1: 1898 - 1939 (Albany: BearManor Media, 2019).

    Mazierska, Ema (Ed.). Blackpool in Film and Popular Music (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

    Mort, Frank. ‘Striptease: The Erotic Female Body and Live Sexual Entertainment in Mid-Twentiety-Century London’, Social History, Vol. 32, No. 1, February 2007.

    Panayi, Panikos. ‘Germans as Minorities during the First World War: Global Comparative Perspectives’, in: Panayi, Panikos (Ed.). Germans as Minorities during the First World War: A Global Comparative Perspective (Farnham, Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014).

    Panayi, Panikos. Immigration, Ethnicity, and Racism in Britain, 1815 - 1945 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994).

    Stone, Peter. ‘The German Community in London during the 19th Century’, History London.

    Waddington, Keir. ‘“We Don’t Want Any German Sausages Here!”: Food, Fear and the German Nation in Victorian and Edwardian Britain’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 52, No. 4, October 2013.

    Walkowitz, Judith R. Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

    Walton, John K. ‘The Seaside Resort: A British Cultural Export’, History in Focus, Issue 9, Autumn 2005.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 37 min
    S2 E4: "Lita Ward" the Soho Girl

    S2 E4: "Lita Ward" the Soho Girl

    Though married to chicken farmer Harold, Evelyn Oatley has given up on rural life and returned to live in seedy Soho under her showgirl alias "Lita Ward". The coming of war has meant a boom time for those selling entertainment, liquor and sex to the servicemen flooding the area. It is in this world of dancing and drinking that Evelyn lives. 

    But beneath a fun-loving facade, Evelyn is lonely. Her male callers help stave off this sense of isolation, but only temporarily. And it’s while working that she’ll meet a cruel and sadistic killer and take him back to her apartment. 

    Sources: 

    Iglikowski-Broad, Vicky. ‘The Shim Sham Club: “London’s Miniature Harlem”’, The National Archives, 5 February 2020.

    National Fairground and Circus Archive, ‘The Second World War’, The University of Sheffield, July 2015.

    Sladen, Chris. ‘Holidays at Home in the Second World War’, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2002.

    Walkowitz, Judith R. Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 39 min
    S2 E5: 'Men Dodge Bullets, Girls Dodge Men'

    S2 E5: 'Men Dodge Bullets, Girls Dodge Men'

    The Blackout Ripper wasn't the only serviceman attacking women in World War Two. In cities, towns and villages women were being harassed and abused by men in the military - and the women who chose to join the armed forces weren't immune from such treatment.

    Those women who signed up for the army, navy or air force to fight Hitler were dogged by crude insinuations that they were promiscuous - especially if they went to dances and drank alcohol. When these servicewomen were stalked, raped or murdered, the official response was often a dismal exercise in victim blaming. 

    Sources:  

    Dunlop, Dr Tessa. 'Army Girls: The Secrets and Stories of Military Service from the Final Few Women who Fought in World War II.' 2021 Headline Publishing Group. 

    Owtram, Jean and Patricia 'Codebreaking Sisters: Our Secret War.' 2020 Mirror Books. 
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1K Ratings

1K Ratings

Lena kincaid ,

A must-listen!

This podcast is one I will recommend to everyone I know. The research is excellent and the story-telling poignant. Even those who aren’t interested in true crime will find value in this. It’s sad how the treatment of women has changed so little since Victorian times. This podcast really examines the way poverty and misogyny are intertwined with the incessant violence against women. Very thought provoking.

Jmsmommy ,

Excellent Podcast

Excellent research and a fresh perspective on the topics.

Ammick76 ,

Much Needed Feminist Perspective

I really enjoyed the first season and it opened my eyes to the lives of the women who were murdered. The emphasis on social history is excellent. I am really enjoying the second season and am grateful that Pushkin shared for free the bonus episode about “Britain’s brown babies.” A very important, heartbreaking, and touching episode.

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