Friday, August 28, 2020

August 28: Mom of Ten Dies in Chicago and Could an Infected Toenail Really Kill?

Ten Children Left Motherless

On August 28, 1926, 44-year-old Margaret Muscia, an Italian immigrant and mother of 10, died from a criminal abortion performed that day in Chicago. Mrs. Minnie Miller, alias Molinaro, was arrested on July 10 for Margaret's death. Minnie's profession is not given. On November 15, she was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury.

Blame it on the Ingrown Toenail

Naomi Congdon, age 21, was the wife of Donald Congdon, a sailor from Denver, stationed in Norman, Oklahoma. On July 27, 1943, Dr. Andrew Young examined Naomi and noted that she was pregnant, and also that she had an ingrown toenail that was infected. The infection, he said, was "minor". 

Naomi told her husband that she wanted to "do something" about the pregnancy. She even admitted to him that she had ingested turpentine to try to cause an abortion, but had vomited it back up. Donald objected to the idea of an abortion. 

On August 16, Donald found a note from his wife, telling him that she was at the home of Mrs. Lena Griffin Smith, a 63-year-old maternity nurse in Oklahoma City. Donald went there and found his wife in great pain. He called a medical officer at the base, who went with him to the house and found Naomi so sick that he told Donald to have Naomi brought to the base hospital. Donald called an ambulance and rode with his wife. 

Police raided Smith's practice at her residence at 2134 Harden Drive. News said that Smith was caught "literally red-handed," bloody from an abortion she had just completed on a 23-year-old Oklahoma City woman who was recuperating in bed. The police made Smith return the woman's abortion fee of $200 (just over $3,000 in 2020 dollars). They took the woman to a hospital. Later that night she gave birth to an infant that lived little more than an hour. Smith was charged with first degree manslaughter for the baby's death.

Smith confessed that she had been operating an abortion business for about 15 years in a house described as "luxurious." She had an accomplice, Mrs. Pearl Green, who was also a nurse. Smith herself had attended medical school for two years. 

On August 19, a Navy doctor examined Naomi and found she had a fever of 103 from an infection that appeared to have started in her uterus. He administered sulfa drugs and blood transfusions. Despite the efforts of the Navy doctors, Naomi died of septicemia on August 28. Her body was taken home to Colorado for burial.

Smith's defense claimed that Naomi had already been feverish when she'd come for care, and that the fatal infection had originated in the ingrown toenail. The jury found Smith guilty of manslaughter and recommended a 10-year sentence. She was also charged with attempting to conceal the death of a child under the age of two after police found the body of an infant who had been born alive during an abortion attempt on its 17-year-old mother at Smith's home before perishing.

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