Sunday, January 17, 2016

Early 10th Century Chicago: A Habitual Killer and a Mysterious Midwife

On January 17, 1912, 38-year-old homemaker Minnie Miller died at Columbus Hospital in Chicago from septicemia caused by an abortion perpetrated on January 2 by Dr.Charles W. Klinetop. Klinetop was identified by Coroner's Verdict on January 26. Minnie's husband Julius is the one who identified Klinetop as the guilty party, and Minnie also named Klinetop in her deathbed statement. While Klinetop was awaiting trial -- which was delayed due to a crowded docket -- in Minnie's death, a woman called the police from Lake Shore Hospital, reporting that there was a woman there "dying from an abortion." The police suspected that Klinetop was involved, but before they arrived at the hospital the woman, identified as Grace Smith, had been spirited away under mysterious circumstances. Klinetop was also implicated in the 1917 abortion death of Edna Lamb and the 1923 abortion death of Lydia Nelson.

On January 23, 1914, 17-year-old Helen Kleich, who worked as a domestic servant, died at Cook County Hospital from sepsis, arising from an abortion perpetrated on January 17 by midwife Margared Wiedemann. Wiedemann was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion, but was acquitted.

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.

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