Orsam Books

Unfair Criticism?

Lord Orsam is baffled at the criticism levelled at Hallie Rubenhold by, amongst others, Debra Arif for the inclusion in her book of the statement that Elizabeth Stride's name 'appears in workhouse records' twice in 1880 a couple of months apart.

That claim seems to be a correct one. The criticism of Hallie is that she didn't mention that, on one of those two occasions, Stride was admitted and discharged from the workhouse on the same day by the police.

As no one seems to know why this happened, it's odd to find Rubenhold criticised for not mentioning it.  How could she have done?  What could she have said?

At the very best, it's a footnote point, not something for the main text and, as such, a somewhat harsh criticism.

Paul Begg, in #3 of the thread entitled 'The workhouse as a place of remand', says that it's 'interesting' that Rubenhold didn't mention the details she is supposed to have mentioned and suggests it was 'an effort to whiten Stride's character'.  But whiten from what?   To the extent that Begg is trying to say that Stride was being taken from the workhouse to be charged with some kind of offence, we have no idea what that offence would have been or whether she was convicted or acquitted of it.

Debra Arif writes in #17 that the record shows that Stride was involved in 'some sort of incident with the police...whatever the nature of it was' yet despite not knowing what that incident involved, expresses surprise that it was omitted from Stride's book.  It seems to me that the explanation for the omission is found in Arif's admission that she has no idea what the incident was, which means that Rubenhold equally had no idea.

The short and pretty simple point that Rubenhold was making was that Stride's name is found twice in workhouse records in 1880 and that on the second occasion she was recorded as being 'destitute'.  It seems rather likely that she was destitute or near destitute on the first occasion too, otherwise why was she taken to a workhouse?

Police regulations in force at the time stated:

'Destitute persons coming under the observation of the Police are to be taken, or directed to the workhouse of the parish wherein they are found, unless in cases where, from necessity, or any urgent circumstances, they can only be sent to the workhouse which happens to be nearest; and in all cases where persons are sent to a workhouse not being that of the parish where found, a special report will be made in the Morning Report of the following day, stating the cause.' 

There are plenty of good reasons to criticize Hallie Rubenhold but this one seems a little bit extreme.

First published in Lord Orsam Says...Part 23  on 21 January 2022
Republished: 14 May 2022