The first death was commemorate today was of a young woman who got far more aftercare than is given to today's typical safe-n-legal abortion patient.
Dorothy Schultz, 19 years of age, lived with her parents in Tomah, Wisconsin. She had just graduated from high school in June of 1929 and was planning to take a job with the government in Washington. Her mother helped her to arrange an abortion to be perpetrated by Dr. W. B. Parke in Camp Douglas. They arrived for the abortion on June 19. Dorothy's parents wanted to remain at Parke's home while he did the abortion, but he requested that they leave. He took their $150 in cash and sent them on their way. The next day, Dorothy's mother fetched her daughter home. She took ill over the next few days, so her parents called Parke and told him of Dorothy's condition. He came to the Schultz home, bringing instruments with him, which he sterilized by boiling. He then performed a procedure to clean out Dorothy's uterus. Parke came to Dorothy's home on at least two other occasions. On June 25, he found her condition to be so serious that he wanted to return to Camp Douglas to get medicine for her.
After he left, Dorothy's parents went against Parke's wishes and called Dr. Winter. Dr. Winter found Dorothy delirious, with a 105 degree fever, and he suspected the abortion. At first, Dorothy seemed to improve under Dr. Winter's care, but she then developed pneumonia. She died on July 3.
An autopsy was performed by Dr. Winter and Dr. Beebe. They found an enlarged uterus and dilated cervix, in keeping with a recent pregnancy. They found signs of infection and of instrumentation of abortion. Dorothy's reproductive organs were sent to a pathologist who found necrotic tissue. He concluded that the sepsis that started in Dorothy's uterus brought on the fatal pneumonia.
Parke went to Dorothy's house after her death to express his sympathy and to refund the $150 abortion fee. He also paid them an additional $850. When the case went to trial, Parke's defense was that he'd only been consulted about Dorothy's health, that he had taken money in case he had to hospitalize her during her pregnancy, and that Dorothy had already attempted to perform an abortion on herself and he'd only been providing her aftercare. Parke was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in Dorothy's death.
On July 3, 1917, 31-year-old homemaker Helen Skoza died at Chicago's Henroten Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by Elizabeth Schade. Schade never went to trial for Helen's death, and went on to kill Fern Strecker in 1926.
Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.
In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.
For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.