Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1879: The body in the trunk

In the late winter of 1879, Jennie P. Clark's body was found stuffed into a trunk in a river at Lynn, New York. An investigation pieced together how she ended up there.

On February 12, Jennie left her home in the Highlands. She was seen shortly thereafter going into the Boston home of Dr. C. C. Goodrich, which she leased from Dr. James L. Simons, who passed himself off as a dentist but was actually the owner of several abortion mills. The abortion was evidently performed at Goodrich's practice. Jennie left on February 15 and went to the home where the an unnamed mother and daughter cared for her. Jennie delivered her dead fetus and seemed to be on the mend. She took a sudden turn for the worse and died on February 25. Dr. Kimball, who lived in the same house as Jennie, as well as Dr. Goodrich were informed when Jennie's health started deteriorating, but they didn't arrive until after her death on February 25.

They packed up the body into the trunk, with Goodrich for some reason removing the dead girl's nose with dental forceps. The next evening, Kimball brought the trunk to Lynn and looked for someplace to dump it. Most of the streams were frozen. He finally tossed it off the Foxbill Bridge into the Saugus River.

Dr. C. C. Goodrich was arrested as the abortionist. Dr. Kimball was arrested as an accessory. Mr. Altin M. Adams, at whose house Jennie worked, was arrested as secondary accessory, as were the mother and daughter living in the house where Jennie had died.

I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Note, please, that with 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.

For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

Lest you think dumping the body disappeared with legalization, read the story of Angela Sanchez. Her family found her abortionist and an accomplice trying to stuff Angela's stiffening body into the trunk of her own car, which they'd planed to ditch. And this was in 1993 -- more than a hundred years after an abortionist and her accomplices stuffed Jennie Clark's body into a trunk.

You can't change what abortion is or the type of people it's going to attract to the business.

For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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