Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1871 & 1891: Fishy Circumstaces Lead to Abortion Death Investigations

1871: Amanda McCoy

On December 28, 1871, an Illinois coroner's jury was called to investigate the December 22 death of Amanda McCoy. Amanda, a young widow who worked as a milliner in Crestline, OH, had died at the home of Dr. Fahlbusch, a German woman practicing as a midwife and described as "of good reputation."

At first, Amanda's body was being transported out of the city for burial, but due to the suspicious circumstances of her death, her body was ordered returned to Chicago for an inquest. The man accompanying the body, said to be engaged to marry Amanda, was taken into custody.

The Coroner's Jury concluded that Amanda had undergone her fatal abortion before coming into the city. Dr. Fahlbusch was cleared of any suspicion in Amanda's death.

1891: Tillie Thor

On December 22, 1891, a 21-year-old Swedish girl named Tillie Thor was found dead in a bed at the rear of the office of Dr. Franklin E. Brooks on Ogden Avenue in Chicago.

Brooks was unable to give an innocent explanation as to why Tillie was dead so he, along with George Lundy, a carpenter, were arrested. Lundy and Brooks had a longstanding friendship.

Tillie has been working as a domestic servant in the home of an upscale family until September of 1891. For a reason I've been unable to determine, she moved in with her sister, Christina Armblade, and Christina's husband, Frederick, on Sangamon Street.

Behind the Armblade house was George Lundy's carpentry shop. He offered her a job as his housekeeper, and she accepted, beginning her job on September 23. A short time later, Lundy relocated to Dussold Street, and against the vehement objections of her family, Tillie accompanied him. They had seen that Tillie was infatuated and feared that she's marry Lundy, a man they considered "odious." Tillie's brother-in-law went so far as to collect Tillie's belongings from Lundy's home and bring them to the Armblade family home.

Tillie sent Lundy to bring her things back to his home, and she remained there, though she spent a brief time at her sister's home in October to be attended during an illness. Her family's attempts to convince her to leave Lundy fell on deaf ears. Tillie said she knew the ways of the world and could take care of herself.

Tillie visited her family less and less often, though her 15-year-old sister, Alma, frequently visited her at Lundy's home. Alma said that Tillie seemed contented living with Lundy, but was disquieted by things she'd observed there, such as Lundy being present in Tillie's room while she was dressing or undressing.

One of Tillie's friends, Helma Boyer, testified that she'd frequently spent the night at the Lundy home and had sometimes seen Lundy sitting by Tillie's bed after Tillie had retired for the night.

However, around the 14th of December, Tillie informed Lundy that she was pregnant. He made arrangements to go to Brooks for the abortion on December 16. Tillie evidently was expecting the abortion and recovery to take several days, since her sister Alma reported that she'd visited Tillie briefly on the 16th and had seen her packing, ostensibly for a vacation. This prevented Tillie's family from having any suspicions regarding her absence from Lundy's home.

Tillie instead went to Brooks' practice. She never left alive. The abortion, which has been perpetrated by an undetermined means, triggered peritonitis. Brooks, who insisted that she'd only been suffering from stomach and bowel problems, kept her in the bedroom at the back of his office and attended her there until her death.

On December 20, Brooks had called in a second physician, Dr. James B. Williams, for a consultation on Tillie's case. Dr. Williams found Tillie, who had been identified to him as "Mrs. Wales," with a high fever and symptoms of the peritonitis that would eventually kill her. Dr. Williams found the whole situation fishy, advised Brooks to continue his current treatments and expressed a desire to extricate himself from situation.

Dr. Williams returned the following day with a Dr. Dal, and together the two doctors concluded that "Mrs. Wales" was suffering from complications of an abortion. They prescribed morphine for her and questioned her about how she'd come to be in her current condition. Eventually she confessed that she'd gotten pregnant by a man in his 40s, with whom she resided. However, she refused to provide the doctors with any clue as to her real identity. Dr. Dal questioned her alone to get a deathbed statement identifying her abortionist. When asked if Dr. Williams was the guilty party, Tillie answered with an emphatic, "No!" When asked if Brooks was the culprit, she gave no answer.

The two consultant doctors testified that Brooks' nephew, Mr. Wales, told them that his uncle was fretful about Tillie's condition and feared he'd go to prison.

For reasons I've been unable to determine, perhaps due to a tip-off by one of the consulting physicians, police staked out Brooks' office. They arrested Lundy first, when he'd approached at around 1 a.m. the day of Tillie's death with a paper with Brooks' address on it that somebody had shoved under his door.

Tillie's family, who had been tricked by the story of the vacation, were stunned by the news of her death.

Brooks had a history as an abortionist. Fifteen years earlier he'd served 18 months for perpetrating an abortion upon a young woman who survived her ordeal. So far I've been unable to determine the outcome of the Tillie Thor case.

Tillie's abortion was typical of those before legalization in that it was performed by a physician.

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