Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A back-alley anniversary

Mary Ackerly of White Plains, New York, was the uneducated daughter of a poor family. So it was only natural that she would be won by the charms of Harry Nelson, "a person of considerable wealth and influence" who lived near Sing Sing.

When she was "in an advanced state of pregnancy, Mary was taken to New York, where board was provided for her in a house of ill fame", according to her deathbed statement. There, Nelson brought Dr. Shove to her room at night. Then "one of them blew out the light while the other proceeded against her will, to perform the operation", which led to the expulsion of a dead baby a day or two later.

Mary sickened, and died on January 20, 1846.

Shove was described as "a rather small man," in his early 30s, who had "heretofore stood high in the estimation of his acquaintances." He was from Ossinging, which is near Sing Sing.

Mary's mother and a girl who lived at her house with her both testified. Evidence was presented that Shove was at the brothel at the time of the abortion. He in turn implicated Nelson.

Shove was indicted for Mary's death.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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