Sunday, November 15, 2015

Abundant Information From 1901, Scant From 1912

There are three abortion deaths in the Cemetery of Choice for this date. I have an abundance of information on the first, but a dearth on the others.

Irma Brown

Irma Brown
On November 15, 1901, 22-year-old Irma Brown of Garden City, Kansas, died at County Hospital from complications of an abortion. Dr. Robert E. Gray, age 42, was arrested November 19 and held without bail. The original accusation had come from nurse Margaret Tedford, who had cared for Irma after she'd taken ill.

A police captain said that he had spoken to Irma as she lay dying, and that she said Gray had performed an abortion on her. There was doubt as to whether Irma's confession would be admitted in the trial because it had been written out by the police officer, but Irma had not signed it. Daniel Healy, the hospital warden, testified that Dr. McPherson at County Hospital had not allowed Irma to sign it because she was so weak that he feared the exertion of signing the document might kill her.

Gray insisted that Irma had undergone an abortion elsewhere at the Veley Hotel and didn't want to go to the county hospital for aftercare lest her family find out. At Irma's request, Gray had taken her to Chicago and registered with her at the hotel on November 1, under the names of Irma's sister and brother-in-law. He further said that she had asked to go for a walk through the La Salle Street Tunnel, so that she could tell her family and friends that she had actually been under the Chicago River. Because of this walk, he said, Irma had suffered a fall that had injured her so that he took action to save Irma's life.

Gray's assertion was weakened by a letter from Gray that Nurse Tedford produced, saying, "My defense is just as I told you and will not be deviated from. It is that Irma slipped and fell in the tunnel a week ago. This defense will not be deviated from one iota or one jot. Remember, remember. Read quickly; decide quickly. Then destroy. bring no letters or papers of any description." Gray's defense was further weakened by his cross-examination, during which he admitted that Irma had gone to the theater with him the evening after the fall..

On March 16, the jury took six ballots over six and a half hours of deliberation. The issue at hand was whether or not the abortion which Gray had admittedly performed had been necessitated by injuries Irma had suffered after a fall. The first ballot stood nine for conviction and three for acquittal. The second found seven for conviction and five for acquittal. With each successive ballot, the jury shifted toward Gray until he was finally acquitted.

Gray's health had deteriorated during the trial. After his acquittal he remained in Chicago until he regained his health, then he returned to his home in Garden City, where public sentiment was divided as to whether his acquittal was just or not.
Two Deaths, Same Day, Scant Information

On November 15, 1912, 38-year-old Ida Kloie died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Minnie Neermann. Neerman was held by the Coroner on November 25, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 1, but the case never went to trial. That same day, 33-year-old homemaker Fannie Scheiner died at County Hospital in Chicago after an abortion perpetrated that day by midwife Annie Balnoka. Balnoka was arrested and held by the Coroner on November 24, and indicted by a Grand Jury on December 15, but the case never went to trial.

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