Thursday, April 19, 2012

Four Tragic Anniversaries

Josephine "Josie" LeClear, age 24, died Wednesday, April 29, 1874. Josie had been living near St. John's School, a boys' school, in Manlius Village for about two weeks, working in the culinary department. On Saturday, April 15, she had gone to Norwich but "was sent back this morning in a coffin and box from there, and accompanying the box was a medical certificate, saying that she died of no contagious disease." Mrs. Copeland, the school matron, went to Norwich and reported "the situation of the corpse and other things surrounding it" were very suspicious. The coroners of the respective counties worked together to investigate Joesphine's death, which was clearly due to an abortion. Eventually both the baby's father and the doctor who perpetrated the abortion were identified. The doctor was not named in the news coverage, but was identified as "a resident practitioner of Hamilton, Madison County. His reputation is none the best, and he has boasted that he could do these things up very neatly."

Hughretta "Etta" Binkley was an unmarried woman about 34 years old. She worked as a stenographer and typist at Patee Bicycle Company in Peoria. At lunchtime on April 1, 1898, she went to the residence/office of Dr.Belle Howard, aka Belle Shotwell, about four blocks from the boarding house. After work the following day, at about 6:30 PM, she returned to Dr. Howard's house and was sent to a room on the second floor. Etta had a bag packed with a nightgown, robe, fountain syringe, and a bottle containing about two ounces of ergot. She took ill at Howard's home, and remained there, attended by the doctor and nurse, until the evening of Saturday, April 9. At that time, Dr. Howard drove Etta in her buggy back to the boarding house where she lived, and left her alone on the porch. Her landlord found her there in "a very helpless and distressed condition." The following morning, at about 9:00, Etta went to the nearby Cottage Hospital. Staff physician Otho B. Will examined her and performed surgery to remove decaying and fetid retained portions of placenta. Etta remained hospitalized under Dr. Will's care until April 19, when she died of septicemia. Immediately after Etta's death, Dr. Howard fled the state and had to be captured and returned for face trial. Dr. Howard was convicted of manslaughter in Etta's death.

On April 17, 1940, Mrs. Josephine Williams and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Adele H. Sassen, were sentenced to prison for an illegal abortion resulting in the death of a Long Beach woman. The abortion had been performed on April 16, 1939, and the woman died three days later.

Mary Paredez, an immigrant, was 26 years old when she underwent an abortion at San Jose Hospital on April 19, 1977. During the procedure, Mary's uterus was perforated. She began to hemorrhage. Less than seven hours later, she was dead. The autopsy found 2500 cc of blood in Mary's abdomen.

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