Like many women in this place and time, Martha took to hawking trinkets on the streets of the slums, but inevitably the demands for rent and the paucity of trade resulted in the ultimate shame of selling her body for sex.
The pressure of this life of grinding poverty caused Martha's relationship to founder and she took common lodgings in the George Yard Buildings, on George Street, Spitalfields.
Supporting herself and her drinking habit, she fell in with other prostitutes such as "Pearly Poll" (known to officialdom as Mary Ann Connelly). On the evening before her murder - the 6th of August 1888 - Martha and Pearly Poll met a pair of soldiers in the The Angel and Crown, each woman going their own way with their respective client.
She was never seen alive again.
At 3.30 on the morning of the 7th, Albert Crow returned to the George Yard Buildings from work and found Martha Tabram slain on the first floor landing. Assuming her to be a drunken vagrant, he passed by without raising the alarm. Only at 5am did a resident recognise that she was in fact dead.
A Ripper Victim?
At the time the fact that she had been seen in the company of a soldier seemed to suggest that she had fallen victim to some dispute and been slain in the heat of an argument. The fact that her throat had not been slit and that potentially two weapons were used, according to Doctor Killeen who performed the autopsy, seems to suggest differences to the known M.O. of the Ripper.
Some later researchers now argue that Tabram was in fact highly likely to have met her end at The Ripper's hands. In all other particulars her profile fits that of the other victims.
She was a destitute prostitute, killed in almost the geographic centre of all the other known Ripper victims. She died on the day after a bank holiday (all the other Ripper victims died near weekends or public holidays) and her body was the subject of extreme violence.
While her throat was not slit, the pattern of wounds to her abdomen was and is highly suggestive of the Ripper and given the other circumstances of her death, it is not unreasonable that she was the first victim of the Whitechapel Murderer.