Last updated: April 30, 2015

Mary Ann Nichols [Polly] - 31st August 1888

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Mary Ann Nichols [Polly] - 31st August 1888

Mary Ann Nichols, or 'Polly', was the first of the Whitechapel murders attributed to the violent, horrific, unidentified killer known as Jack the Ripper. Her life is relatively well-documented, perhaps due to her status as an inmate of various 'workhouses', which were places of refuge for the most poor and destitute. Her body was discovered on Bucks Row, which has since been named Durward Street, in the Whitechapel district of London on August 31, 1888.

Polly was married and the mother of five children, but was separated from her husband and children at the time of her murder. Polly separated from her husband, William Nichols, more than seven years before her death. The cause of their separation is disputed; Polly insisted it was because of his infidelity, which William never denied. Her husband purported that their failing marriage was due to Polly's alcoholism, and police reports confirm that Polly was frequently drunk. When she left her husband, she left him with their children. William was able to provide evidence that Polly was a prostitute, and therefore was not obligated to provide alimony for her support.

The night of Polly's murder was chilly compared to typical August weather in London, and it was stormy. From what we know of Polly's activities that night, she had been out searching for 'doss money', which meant that she was trying to earn money by prostituting herself to pay for her night's lodgings. One of her acquaintances overheard her drunkenly say that she had earned her doss money three times that evening and had spent it each time.

If only Polly had returned home earlier in the evening, perhaps her fate would have been different. Instead, around 4:00 in the morning, two labourers found her body with several large, forceful cuts down her abdomen and on other parts of her body. She was laid to rest in a funeral paid for by her father, husband and eldest son, and remains at rest at the Manor Park Cemetery in a grave marked with a plaque.