Saturday, January 30, 2021

January 30: Stella and Jeanette, Examples of Common Abortions

Research by both Planned Parenthood and scholar Nancy Howell Lee into pre-legalization abortion practice found that most abortion-minded women availed themselves of the services of physicians. The second most common kind of illegal abortionist, Lee found in her probing, was a non-physician with medical training such as a nurse, midwife, or dentist. Today's anniversaries provide common examples.

A Franklin, IL, Physician

In late January of 1904, Estella "Stella" Murgatroyd lay ailing at the home of her parents just outside Jacksonville, Illinois. Her father, F. E. Murgatroyd, said that Stella had left home on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, and had returned home at around 5 p.m. She began to develop a fever the next day at around noon. After that she began to get chills and seemed seriously ill. Mr. M had asked several times if he could summon a doctor for her, but she refused. Finally he'd summoned Dr. J. A. Day without Stella's consent. He consulted with Dr. Frank P. Norburg and Dr. F. J. Pitner. The two men were suspicious so they questioned Stella pointedly. She made a declaration just before her death on January 30, witnessed by Frank P. Norburg and Dr. Day:

"I, Miss Estella Murgatroyd, a single (unmarried) lady, 27 years of age, do hereby, and in the presence of witnesses, solemnly declare that I was [pregnant by John Pate] and on Jan. 21, 1904, about 2:30 o/clock p.m., Dr. W. C. Manley operated upon me at his office in Jacksonville. I furthermore declare that upon the morning of Jan. 24, 1904, Dr. J. A. Day was called to attend me and he afterwards on the same day called and consulted with Dr. L. P. Norbury over my condition. I declare furthermore that Dr. L. P. Norbury and J. A. Day had no association whatever in the operation." 

The three doctors who cared for Stella signed a death certificate giving her cause of death as "septic endocarditis and peritonitis." The post-mortem examination verified the cause of death as abortion complications.

During the inquest, Dr. Day testified that he had concluded that Stella was moribund from the first time he was called in to attend to her. She'd told him about the abortion and said that beforehand she'd been assured that there would be no danger to her from the procedure.

An inquest was held February 1 through 5, 1904. Dr. Day testified that John Pate had named Dr. William C. Manley as Stella's abortionist in a conversation they'd had. Pate agreed to pay Day's $25 fee for providing care to Stella. Day asked Pate if he'd seen Dr. Manley boil the instruments before using them and Pate had answered in the negative. Pate said that the abortion was performed at the office Dr. Manley shared with Dr. Corrill while Corrill was in an adjacent room. Pate told Dr. Day that Stella had threatened to kill herself unless she was able to arrange an abortion. When Dr. Day told Pate that he'd have to give a true cause of death on the death certificate, he said, Pate tried to convince him not to do so on the grounds that his wife and children would throw him off if they found out the truth.

Dr. Norbury testified that after Stella had given her dying declaration, she'd asked him not to show it to her mother, since Pate was Stella's brother-in-law.

Other witnesses at the inquest contributed little useful information. They Dr. Corrill's wife, Lillian; Edward Brennan, who owned the nearby Pacific Hotel; and Stella's sister Annie, who was Pate's wife. Pate himself was still at large and his wife said that he'd disappeared without telling her where he was going. He had withdrawn $200 from the bank and was believed to have boarded a south-bound train. The sheriff was confident that he'd be easily found because he had a severely injured eye and a patch of white in his otherwise dark brown hair.

Dr. Manley was arrested. A warrant was issued for Pate as an accessory. 

I've been unable to determine the outcome of the case, but it seems unlikely that either man was convicted because the 1910 federal census records show each man still living with his wife and children in Jacksonville. Evidently Pate's wife and children didn't throw him off after all.

A Chicago Midwife

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, abortion practice thrived in Chicago, with midwives and doctors placing thinly-veiled ads for abortions in newspapers. On January 30, 1912, 21-year-old Jeanette Milczarek, a homemaker and Russian immigrant, died in Chicago from an abortion believed to have been perpetrated by nurse/midwife Anna Chezanowaki, possibly that same day. Chezanowaki was indicted by a Grand Jury on February 15, but the case never went to trial.

Stella Murgatroyd sources:

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