At about 2:00 p.m. on February 18, 1883, 28-year-old Irish immigrant Kittie O'Toole died at the office of Dr. C. H. Orton , her betrothed, in Milwaukee. Orton attributed her death to an epileptic seizure.

KittieOtoole.jpg
Kittie O'Toole

Orton's neighbors, however, found the death suspicious and demanded an investigation.

The coroner's jury found Orton culpable for two murders -- of Kittie and of her unborn baby -- for having perpetrated a fatal abortion.

Orton, a widower more than 60 years of age, was a prominent politician and a doctor of longstanding in the community, which makes it interesting that in late April a municipal court judge suddenly dismissed all of the charges against Orton. Judge Malory said that though the circumstances were highly suspicious, the skill of Orton's defense by former Attorney General Winfield Smith convinced him that Orton was in fact innocent and that Kittie had died of natural causes.

Given the political connections of Dr. Orton, the obscurity of Kittie O'Toole, and the fact that a coroner believed an abortion had taken place leads me to believe that Orton pulled strings to get the case dismissed.


I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

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 on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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


KittieOTooleDouble.png
Sources:
  • "Verdict Against Dr. Orton", New York Times, Feb. 22, 1883
  • "Charged With Double Murder," Cleveland Leader, Feb. 22, 1883
  • "Discharged," Topeka Daily Commonwealth, Apr. 19, 1883
  • "The Crime of Dr. Orton," Parsons (KS) Daily Sun, Feb. 23, 1883
  • Untitled item, Angola (IN) Steuben Republican, May 1, 1883

KittieOTooleParsonsKSDailySun23Feb1883.png

KittieOTooleAngolaINSteubenRepublican1May1883.png



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