Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two Centuries, Three Women's Deaths

Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1885: Sylvia Sawdy 

In 1885, Harry McDowell began calling at the home of Dr. Truman Sawdy of Howard City, about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit Dr. Sawdy's 21-year-old daughter, Sylvia. McDowell usually came on Sundays and in the evening, and also corresponded with Sylvia.

On December 10, Sylvia went to Grand Rapids by train, ostensibly to visit McDowell's mother. Dr. Sawdy heard nothing more from or about his daughter until the morning of Christmas Eve, when McDowell's father came to him, saying that he'd gotten a telegram or telephone call from his son. The senior McDowell said that Harry had told him that Sylvia was very sick and wanted her mother, Cornelia, to go to her.

Dr. Sawdy read the next day in the newspaper that his daughter was dead.

It came out in the trial that in November, Sylvia had consulted with Drs. Bodle, Hake, and Bradish, indicating that she was pregnant. Evidence indicated that McDowell had performed an abortion on Sylvia on December 23, and that she died that day. McDowell was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years.

New York, 1934: Loretta Wilson 

Loretta Wilson

On Christmas day of 1934, the nude body of a young woman was found under a pile of leaves in a thicket near a highway south of New York City. One source says that truck drivers found the body, another says it was spotted by two truck drivers.

The young woman was estimated to have been dead between 12 and 24 hours. Eventually the date of death was determined to be December 23.

Laura and Joseph Devine, whose 19-year-old daughter, Loretta Wilson, had been missing since December 19, contacted authorities and were able to positively identify the body. An autopsy revealed that she had bled to death from complications of an abortion.
Loretta had left home at noon on the 19th, telling the landlady that she was going to see a doctor. Her husband of two years, William, knew better. Though initially he'd denied even knowing that Loretta had been pregnant, he later said he'd paid Dr. John H. Becker Jr., age 52, $55 for the abortion. He added that his wife's friend, Kay Dinger, had been present when the transaction took place.

William, whose profession is alternatively given as a chauffeur and a truck driver, came home from work on December 19 to find Loretta not home. He assumed that she had gone to Becker for the abortion since he'd made the appointment for the 19th. He went to Becker's office and learned that she wasn't there, and the next day he reported her missing.

Becker admitted to having been paid $2 for examining Loretta on December 17, but denied perpetrating the abortion. He said that she was supposed to return on the 18th but failed to show up. However, his assertion that he'd not seen Loretta after the 17th was challenged by a witness who picked Becker out of a lineup of seven men as the one he'd seen standing by a car near the area where Loretta's body was found.

Becker was found guilty and sentenced to between 18 months and three years in Sing-Sing.

One more note: Loretta's abortion was typical of pre-Roe abortions in that it was performed by a physician

New York, 1970: "Kimberly" Roe

"Kimberly" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion.  Kimberly was 25 years old and 18 weeks pregnant when she underwent a safe, legal abortion under the new law, in New York City on December 23, 1970. During the abortion, she went into cardiac arrest and died, leaving behind two children.

No comments: