Thursday, May 20, 2010

1870: Mystery death in Brooklyn

On May 20, 1870, Mrs Matilda Henningsen, aka Matilda Hunt, died at No. 182 East Seventh Street in Brooklyn. Authorities investigated her death.

Matilda's sister, Henrietta Henningsen, testified that she recognized clothes and other items belonging to her sister. Henrietta said that Matilda had been sick about two months earlier, and had been treated by Dr. Herzog and Dr. Kennerer. Shortly after having taken ill, Matilda told Henrietta that she'd gotten an invitation to go to Williamsburgh, and that was the last Henrietta had seen of her sister.

August Herman Rauffes testified that he'd known Matilda for about twelve years. She had worked for several families as a live-in governess. In October of 1869 she had rented a room from him above his store. She had been treated by Dr. Herzog for sickness. She told Rauffes that she was going to the country, and left a forwarding address. After her departure, Rauffes found a card with the names of Dr. Wolff and Dr. Grindle written on it.

Dr. Max Herzod testified that he had treated Matilda on March 12 for abdominal pain. After three weeks of care, the pain continued, and Matilda also reported nausea. He examined her and determined that she was pregnant. Afterward she told him she was going to Germany. That was the last he'd heard of her until learning of her death. Dr. Krammerer, who had also treated Matilda, concurred with Dr. Herzod's testimony.

Dr. Joseph B. Chshman testified as to the post-mortem examination he had performed. He said he found all the evidence of uterine infection and resulting peritonitis, resulting from an abortion.

The Dr. Wolf whose name was on the card Matilda's landlord found, was Mr. A. A. Wolff, from Denmark, purported to be a physician. However, he is not identified as such in the source document. But he clearly was an abortionist. Six fetuses, along with various instruments, were found in his office.

The jury determined that Wolff had performed the fatal abortion.



For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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4 comments:

Lilliput said...

News from this side of the pond -

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/20/abortion-advert-outcry

I don't agree with the above author but thought you may be interested. I much prefer the guy below:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2010/may/20/us-politics-abortion

GrannyGrump said...

I'll turn them into links for you, Lil --

Outcry over abortion advert is about power, not saving foetuses

I can tell just by the title and subtitle that the author doesn't get it. She embraces abortion as a positive (albeit painful) good, and anything that fails to promote (excuse me, "educate about" this positive (albeit painful) good must be motivated by a desire to keep people away from a good thing.

She just doesn't get that to some people, a dead baby is always a bad thing. Not just a stressful thing or a lesser of two evils thing. A bad thing. She doesn't get that there is a sizable portion of the population that thinks it's fatuous at best to propose helping women by killing their babies, even their eensie weensie unborn babies in-utero.

Having utterly failed to get that it IS about babies, she then tries to cook up alternative -- and thus ulterior -- motives.

Serious post about abortion

The second author reveals that he doesn't get it here:

"my reason is that to me, the moral argument has as its core a pretend question: should we or should we not let women have abortions?

Why is that a pretend question? For the following reason.

Because the fact is that abortions are always going to happen, whether they're legal or illegal. Abortion goes back to ancient times, maybe 1500 BC. So it has been around, and it is not going anywhere."

He goes from the undeniable (Some women will resort to abortion no matter what) to the debatable (Therefore we have an obligation to protect those women from any negative fallout from that action.)

There are quite a few things old as antiquity, including but not limited to rape, arson, murder, robbery, slavery, and torture. The fact that a behavior has been around a long time in spite of prohibitions does not mean it automatically follows that partitioners of the behavior are automatically deserving of sympathy, help, or protection as they engage in that behavior.

I'll agree that the question isn't "Should we or should we not let women have abortions?"

The question is, "How should society respond to this practice?"

Just because people can get hurt or killed doing something doesn't obligate the rest of society to facilitate the activity, to promote the activity, or indeed even to tolerate the activity. If the activity is inherently wrong -- it harms an innocent party -- then the only proper response is for society to seek to stop the practice as much as humanly possible.

Lilliput said...

Christina I believe you are right but didn't they try that with making abortion illegal? Its the same thing with drugs - people taking it har harming themselves so we make it illegal but they continue to do it. So what can we do other then legalise it so that it doesn't lead to a secondary black market society which leads to more harm?

GrannyGrump said...

Lil, abortion mortality was falling rapidly before legalization. Legalization was for the benefit of the abortionists and their associates, and if it helped the women as well the abortionists had no objection to that. But look at who really benefitted. It used to be if you screwed up and killed a patient, you at the very least faced an investigation and likely prosecution and the very real possibility of going to prison and losing your license.

Now? Kill a patient, and it's "Big fat hairy deal, as long as the right-to-lifers don't convince the family to sue." The woman is just as dead. Her children and parents and siblings and friends are just as bereft. But the quack who killed her doesn't even get a sidelong glance from law enforcement or the medical establishment.

And comparing drug use to abortion is fatuous. The drug user really IS doing something to his or her own body. The person doing an abortion is killing another human being. That's just not something a decent, civilized society should tolerate, any more than we should tolerate sex trafficking or slavery or rape or child abuse. The fact that lots of people you personally sympathize with happen to be cool with that particular form of violence doesn't make it right. The Extermination Order against the Mormons signed by the Governor of Missouri had a lot of popular support, and I'm sure that plenty of otherwise very nice people were okay with slaughtering Mormons. That didn't make it right.