SUMMARY: Anna Gosch died on March 20, 1906 from an abortion perpetrated by her lover in a Kearney, Nebraska hotel.

Nebraska in 1906 wasn't like it is today. It wasn't a time and place where sexual activity was a right, with contraceptives expected to be provided for free by the government. Women and girls were expected to be chaste, if not until marriage, at least until they were engaged to a man who would marry them and provide a home for any child they conceived.

It was that world that Anna Gosch lived in.

Anna's boyfriend, Mr. Edwards, admitted that he knew Anna, that they'd had a sexual relationship, and that she had called him to tell him that her period was late. He admitted that he went to the town of Kearney, and got a hotel room with the intent of perpetrating an abortion.

Such were the morals of the day that a bellboy objected to the presence of a young woman in the man's hotel room.

Edwards wouldn't say what happened in the hotel room. He did say that the next day he took her to her home, and using a speculum he tried to insert a catheter into her uterus, which at the time was a method often used by doctors to cause an abortion. Edwards, however, couldn't get the catheter inserted.

He said that Anna went upstairs and returned with a catheter with a wire in it, which would stiffen it for insertion. He said that the wire did its job in allowing him to get the catheter inserted. He then bent the wire and threw it away.

A witness in the later trial, however, said that Edwards denied having done the abortion himself. He said that Anna had gone upstairs, then come down and told him that she thought "she had done it." Physical evidence suggested otherwise: a speculum and three catheters were in Edwards' valise when he was arrested.

A physician, Dr. Cameron, was called on Thursday, March 15, to care for Anna. He saw her twice a day until the Monday before her death. During that time he consulted with another physician and concluded that Anna was going to die.

Dr. Cameron testified,"I asked her what had been done to make her sick, and she said there had been a man had passed an instrument into her with a wire in it, rubber with a wire in it. I asked her when that had been done, and she said Monday; she thought it was Monday night." When asked about who the man was, "She said he was a man who traveled for rubber goods or instruments of some kind, said he was a traveling man."

Anna Gosch died on Tuesday, March 20, 1906, at 6:10 PM.

Edwards was convicted of homicide.

Anna's death is similar to the death of "Daisy" Roe, a systems analyst who died in 1990 after allowing her boyfriend to attempt to perform an abortion on her with a piece of aquarium tubing.

It was also unusual in that it was performed by an amateur, rather than by a doctor, as was the case with perhaps 90% of criminal abortions.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.


For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Source: 79 Neb. 251, 112 N.W. 611; Supreme Court of Nebraska. EDWARDS v. STATE. No. 14, 988. June 7, 1907.


  1. 1900s
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  16. NAF
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  18. abortion
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  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists -- female
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  27. black women
  28. born alive
  29. botched abortion
  30. california
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  33. connecticut
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  40. district of columbia
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  45. fetal indications
  46. florida
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  48. george tiller
  49. georgia
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  52. illegal - doctor
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  60. illinois
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  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin