Monday, November 16, 2015

Late 19th and Early 20th Century Abortion Deaths

On November 7, 1882, 23-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holstein of Philadelphia grew ill with fever and chills. Over subsequent days, as she grew progressively more ill,  she spoke to her aunt and confessed that she was ailing from the effects of an abortion performed by her dentist, Dr. George Buchanan, on the night of October 7. She also made a similar deathbed statement to Dr. Samuel D. Marshall, had attended to Lizzie in her final sickness.

In spite of all that Dr. Marshall could do, Lizzie died on November 16 from cumulative blood loss. Dr. Marshall notified the coroner's office. The police came to the house and got Lizzie's false teeth, which they brought to Buchanan. He identified them as his work, whereupon he was arrested. Some confusion arose as to whether the dentist Lizzie had meant was the recently arrested Dr. Buchanan or his father, also named George, who sometimes worked in the dental office when he wasn't in prison.

George Buchanan the younger was convicted in Lizzie's death, but was quickly granted a new trial. I have been unable to determine if the trial actually took place and, if so, what the outcome was.


On November 16, 1905, 18-year-old Dorothy Spuhr died in County Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed on November 13. Midwife Julia Gibson, aka Timmons, was arrested and held by the coroner's jury. Gibson went on to perpetrate a fatal abortion on Bessie Braun the following year.

No comments: