Saturday, January 16, 2016

Three Illegal Abortions

A Media Circus in 1889

An inquest was held into the January 16, 1889 death of 22-year-old Kitty Cody, a young Oyster Bay woman, in Brooklyn. Frank P. Dudgeon had set Kitty up in Mrs. Anyon's house at 85 West Eighty-Ninth Street. Kitty took sick there. Mrs. Anyon, testified that Dudgeon had sent a box to Kitty, along with "a letter from him explaining the use of the contents of the box." The box evidently contained abortifacients. Kitty died at the apartment of Mrs. M. A. Harriman at 124 Flatbush Avenue.

The inquest was a circus, "held in the Supervisor's chamber, which was literally packed with spectators. It was replete with dramatic incidents, with some of which the crowd expressed its sympathies with the prosecution by breaking into applause." Mrs. Harriman attended the inquest with her daughter, Mrs. Clara Fernald. Dr. Charles F. Hall and Mrs. M. A. Flarriman were found to be complicit in concealing the commission of an abortion. 

The prosecutor's office concluded that Kitty, provided with the abortion drugs, had attempted an abortion, then used an instrument provided to her to perform a self-induced abortion. On May 21, she had gone to a doctor who cared for her until hospitalizing her on June 6. While hospitalized she'd said something that had led to the belief that Dr. Charles Singley had perpetrated an abortion. Singley, when arrested, said that Kitty was trying to blackmail him. His only contact with her had been, he said, when she'd come to his office for treatment for a pelvic abscess. He'd treated her, she'd paid her $2, and left. This had been about a month prior to seeking care from the doctor who had hospitalized her.

Dudgeon married Kitty the day before her death. He was tried as an accessory to manslaughter in Kitty's death, but in April of 1889 "escaped conviction by a disagreement of the jury, which stood eight to four for conviction of manslaughter in the first degree." He was released on $10,000 bail, which he was able to pay himself in cash. In fact, so prosperous was Dudgeon that he managed to arrange a lavish birthday banquet for himself while he was in jail. However, in July of 1890, the DA of Kings County dismissed the indictment.

Early 20th Century Chicago

On January 16, 1901, 20-year-old Jennie Mallard died at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Chicago from an abortion performed several weeks earlier. She signed a statement about three hours later incriminating Dr. Margaret Simmons, who was arrested and held in the death. Simmons would neither confirm nor deny the allegation. Simmons' profession is listed as nurse or midwifein the Homicide in Chicago database, but at that time and in that place, female obstetricians were often referred to as midwives. On the 1900 Census, she is listed as a physician.

Jennie Martin, a 28-year-old homemaker married to Frank Martin, died January 16, 1906 from sepsis caused by a criminal abortion. Though the Homicide in Chicago Database says she died at Wesley Hospital in Chicago, her death certificate indicates that she died at her home at 3555 Vincentles Avenue. My best guess is that she was died at the home but was taken to the hospital by family members who were in shock, and then the hospital reported the suspicious death to the police. Dr. William F. Brineywas held by the coroner's jury. Jennie's abortion is typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a doctor.

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