Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Other February Deaths, All Historic

On this, the last day of February, let's take a moment to remember the women who died in February on dates I've been unable to narrow down.

Jessie Wicks, aka Mary Lee, "found herself in a peculiar situation" in February of 1854. She was advised to go to Mrs. M. J. Bord of Troy for an abortion. Mrs. Bord's profession is not given. Jessie went to Mrs. Bord's home, "and was put under a course of treatment which, after the most intense suffering, terminated in her decease. The circumstances of the case are of so revolting a nature, that to patricularizse in a newspaper, would be the height of impropriety."

Cordelia Calkins, who worked as a "ballet girl" in Brooklyn theaters, took up with Charles Young, the son of her boarding-house landlady. In mid-February of 1860, Cordelia told Charles that she was pregnant and asked him to help arrange an abortion. Charles got his brother William to buy a bottle of oil of tansy. The tansy, however, only succeeded in making Cordelia very sick. As her condition deteriorated over the ensuing days, somebody summoned a nearby doctor, H. W. Fowler, to care for her. Dr. Fowler administered witch-hazel and ginger tea to finish off the abortion, thinking that this would save Cordelia's life. "The decoction, however, while it added to her sufferings, did not answer the purpose for which it had been administered, and after lingering in great agony till Sunday afternoon, death came to her release." Don't blame the legal status of abortion for Cordelia's decision to go herbal -- some women continue to embrace herbal abortion. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)

Some time in February, 1916, Mrs. Ruth Camp died from complications of an illegal abortion performed in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bennett Graff was found guilty of murder in Ruth's death, and sentenced to 11 - 13 years in prison. Graff protested "stoutly" and appealed the conviction. Graff was also charged in the death of another woman from an illegal abortion, but I've been unable to get any details of that case.

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