25 October 1888
That five thousand women of the labouring classes in East London should petition the Queen to call upon her servants in authority to enforce the law and "to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done, and men and women ruined in body and soul," is a curious incident in the history of the Whitechapel murders. Mr. Matthews, in reply, says that he is "in communication with the Commissioners of Police with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners and to mitigate the evils of which they complain." But so far as the Whitechapel murders prove anything about the social evils, is it not that houses are not indispensable to vice - that, in fact, where there is poverty on one side and animalism on the other, any quiet spot under the sky affords a place for the evils in question?
"GRACIOUSLY PLEASED TO RECEIVE THE MEMORIAL."
During the three days of the week following the Sunday on which the two murders were committed the following petition to the Queen was freely circulated among the women of the labouring classes of East London through some of the religious agencies and educational centres:-
We, the women of East London, feel horror at the dreadful sins that have been lately committed in our midst and grief because of the shame that has fallen on our neighbourhood.
By the facts which have come out in the inquests, we have learned much of the lives of those of our sisters who have lost a firm hold on goodness and who are living sad and degraded lives.
While each woman of us will do all she can to make men feel with horror the sins of impurity which cause such wicked lives to be led, we would also beg that your majesty will call on your servants in authority and bid them put the law which already exists in action to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done and men and women ruined in body and soul.
We are, Madam, your loyal and humble servants."
The petition, which received between 4000 and 5000 signatures, was presented in due form and the following reply has been received:-
I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you he has had the honour to lay before the Queen the petition of women inhabitants of Whitechapel praying that steps may be taken with a view to suppress the moral disorders in that neighbourhood, and that her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive the same.
I am to add that the Secretary of State looks with hope to the influence for good that the petitioners can exercise, each in her own neighbourhood, and he is in communication with the Commissioners of Police with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners to mitigate the evils of which they complain.
I am, Madam, your obedient servant,