Sunday, August 16, 2020

August 16: Ugly Rumors in 1858 and Other Cases

Ugly Rumors in Boston, 1858

On Monday, August 16, 1858, Dr. David R. Brown went to an undertaker asking for the removal from is home of a body he said was that of his 37-year-old servant, Emily A. Thompson. He said that she had died from cholera.  She had died at 5:00 in the morning and buried at 3 p.m. that same day.

Somebody found this fishy and contacted the District Attorney. The body was exhumed and examined. The dead woman didn't look any older than age 20. An autopsy also showed that the death had not been due do cholera but rather due to abortion complications.

"Her body was lacerated and torn to a frightful extent, and her sufferings must have been agonizing in the extreme," the New England Farmer noted. “She was of good form, tall and slim, and appeared to be unused to labor. When the body was disinterred a gold ring was found on one finger and an ear-ring in one ear. She has light-brown hair and blue or hazel eyes, and is said to have been a very beautiful and intelligent girl.”

Her name was Susan Webster.

Rumors also swarmed that she had been sent to Boston the abortion by a "near relative" who had gotten her pregnant. The "near relative" turned out to be her uncle, Philip Ulmer.

Brown, described as "keeper of an establishment of a questionable character," was arrested and charged with manslaughter on August 24, 1858, and Ulmer was charged as an accessory, as were two women who had been present in Brown's house. A trial in March resulted in a hung jury, with 11 voting for conviction and one for acquittal after 44 hours of deliberation. In a subsequent trial in April, 1859, Brown was convicted and faced a sentence of seven to 21 years.

Chicago, 1899

On August 16, 1899, 35-year-old Antonie Vacicek, a married woman, died in her Chicago home from complications of an illegal abortion performed there that day. Mary Koupal was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury in the death, but was discharged in the September term. Koupal's profession is not listed.

Safe and Legal in California, 1969

Cheryl Vosseler was 17 years old when she was admitted to Fresno General Hospital on July 31, 1969, to undergo a legal abortion. California allowed abortions to be performed in hospitals at that time. After she was discharged, Cheryl suffered from complications, and was readmitted two weeks later. Surgery was performed August 14, 1969, to try to save her life. Cheryl's condition continued to deteriorate. She finally died August 16, 1969.

One of Three Deaths at a Chicago Clinic, 1974

Dorothy Brown, age 37, underwent a safe and legal abortion at Friendship Medical Clinic in Chicago on August 16, 1974. Within hours, she was dead at a nearby hospital. Her death was attributed to "shock related to hemorrhagic necrosis of uterus." That means that blood from her uterus was unable to get back into her circulatory system, overwhelming the tissues and causing them to die. Julia Rogers and Evelyn Dudley also died after abortions at Friendship Medical Center.


New sources for Susan Webster death:
  • "Sad Death of a Young Woman," New England Farmer, August 28, 1858
  • "Dr. David R. Brown Indicted for Murder," New England Farmer, September 25, 1858

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