(August 26, 1845-August 31, 1888) The first recognized victim of Jack the Ripper. Born Mary Ann Walker in Whitechapel, known as "Polly" by her friends and family, she married William Nichols in 1864 and had five children with him (Edward John, born 1866; Percy George, born 1868; Alice Esther, born 1870; Eliza Sarah, born 1877; and Henry Alfred, born 1879).
In 1881, they separated; Polly's father, Edward, accused William of having an affair with the midwife during Polly's last pregnancy while William argued that their marriage continued for three years after the affair and accused Polly of leaving him at least four times; each time they reconciled, he claimed, she began drinking again. Whatever the story, young Edward Nichols was estranged from his father and lived with grandfather Edward; at his mother's funeral, the young man refused to associate with William.
William was still obliged to send financial support to his wife, but when he found in 1882 that she sometimes turned to prostitution, he refused to send any more.
Polly became an alcoholic drifter, trapped in a cycle of doss-houses, workhouses, drinking, prostitution, and wearing out her welcome with relatives.
At age 43 and five-foot-two, Polly Nichols could pass for ten years younger; she had greying dark-brown hair, high cheekbones, brown eyes, and olive skin. She was well-liked by friends and was pitied by many. Still, she was arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct, placed in workhouses for sleeping on the streets, and lived off of charity and casual prostitution.
On her last day, August 30 of 1888, she had three clients, but her taste for gin overruled; she'd told a friend an hour before her murder that she'd earned money for a bed three times over and she drank all the money away. She arrived at the doss-house at 1:30 AM, drunk and penniless. But she felt very confident about finding another client because she was wearing a new hat and felt she looked very pretty; she was drunk, she was missing five front teeth, but she declared, "See what a jolly bonnet I've got!"
She was found on the sidewalk of Buck's Row by two workers at 3:40 AM, she'd been dead for about 20 minutes. Her skirts were pulled up almost to her waist. Her throat had been cut and, later in the mortuary, it was found that she'd been slit open from groin to sternum and her vulva stabbed.
At Polly's inquest, Edward Walker said of his daughter, "I don't think she had any enemies; she was too good for that."