Tuesday, March 05, 2019

March 5: Safe and Legal in Philly, Illegal in Chicago

Safe and Legal in Philly, 1980

Gwendolyn Cliett, age 29, was about to undergo a safe, legal abortion and tubal ligation at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia on March 5, 1980. She was 8 to 10 weeks pregnant. Before the procedure could be done, Gwendolen reacted to the anesthesia and died. Gwendolyn, being a Black woman, was at higher risk of abortion death than a white woman would have been.

A Mysterious Chicago Death, 1915

Lillian Galvin died March 6, 1915 in Chicago. Authorities were unable to determine who had perpetrated the fatal abortion. I have been unable to learn anything else about Lillian. I have not even been able to find her name in Chicago or Cook County death indices.

A Chicago Midwife, 1907

On March 5, 1907, Mrs. Ella Brunswick, age 24, died at St. Elizabeth's hospital in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion performed that day. In a deathbed statement, Ella implicated a 35-year-old midwife named Kunigundi Hardman.

Ella's abortion was typical of Chicago abortions of the era in that it was perpetrated by a medical professional. Physician-abortionists and midwife-abortionists were very common.

Known Perp, Unknown Profession, in Chicago, 1900

On March 5, 1900, Mrs. Alice Koester died in German Hospital from complications of an illegal abortion that the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database indicates was performed there that day by Maria Janke. The database is often in error about abortions being perpetrated in hospitals. Alice's fatal abortion was more likely performed either at her own home or at wherever Janke typically piled her abortion trade. Janke was arrested March 10, and held by Coroner's Jury on March 11. She was sentenced by Judge Clifford to Joliet Penitentiary for a charge not noted in the source. Janke's employment status is listed as "professional", but so far I have been unable to determine her usual profession. Most Chicago abortionists were doctors or midwives, but since I have not found a professional listing for her, she was more likely a professional lay abortionist.

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