SUMMARY: On February 17, 1917, 20-year-old Edna May Lamb died in Chicago's Illinois Central Hospital from complications of an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Charles Klinetop.

Before her death in Chicago's Illinois Central Hospital on February 17, 1917, 20-year-old stenographer Edna May Lamb reported that Dr. Charles Klinetop of Vinccenes Avenue had packed her cervix with gauze in order to cause an abortion. One of Edna's friends later reported that Edna had several boyfriends, but had gone to a hotel with a man who had been passing through the city. Edna told a doctor that she'd been unable to marry the baby's father because he had died.

Klinetop denied even having met Edna. He was held by the Coroner and indicted on March 15 by a Grand Jury, but the case never went to trial. A likely factor in the decision not to prosecute was the lack of a dying declaration. Statements made prior to death were not considered nearly as weighty in court if they were not given by a patient that clearly believed that she was about to die. Dr. Henry Kruse, who treated Edna at Chicago's Illinois Central Hospital, asked her about how she had suffered her injuries, did not tell Edna that she was dying, explaining "We don't do that to patients because sometimes it is ver[y] discouraging and the result is bad."

Edna died in spite of surgery to try to save her life.

Edna, originally from Missouri, had lived on East 65th Street in Chicago with her parents, Hugh P. and Celia J. (Heffernan) Lamb.

Note, please, that with overall public health 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 information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

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

  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database
  • death certificate
  • "Physician Held For Girl's Death; Second Sought," Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 26, 1917
  • "Seek Doctor Following Death of Servant Girl," The Day Book, Feb. 26, 1917


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