Alice Bowlsby

Alice Bowlsby20s, 1870s, newyork, illegaldoctor, 19thcenturySUMMARY: Alice Bowlsby, age 25, died August 26, 1871 after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Jacob Rosenzweig in his New York City practice.
A Horrifying Discovery | Where is Alice? | Identification | The Doctor | Incriminating Evidence | A Shift of Attitude | The Inquest | The Trial Begins | The AftermathA Horrifying Discovery On August 26, 1871, a shabbily-dressed young woman waited on the platform of the Hudson River Railroad Depot in New York City. A trunk was delivered to her by a hired cartman, with help from the station’s baggage boy, who also helped the young woman buy a strap to fasten the trunk more securely. The young woman checked the trunk for Chicago — her own destination — then vanished in the crowd.

AliceBowlsbyDiscovery.jpgAs the flimsy trunk was hauled to the platform, the lid was jarred, and an overpowering stench filled the balmy summer air. The station master, Robert Vendevoort, was called over. He opened the trunk to find bloodstained quilts and rags — and the nude body of a young woman.

She was frail and slight, doubled up and crammed into the small space. Her pale hair spilled over her body. Her blue eyes stared sightlessly at the horrified spectators.

A summoned police officer had the body brought to the morgue, and an appeal went out to the public to identify the dead girl. Crowds braved the smell to catch a glimpse of the young woman, kept on ice to try to slow decomposition. An examination revealed that death was due to uterine infection from an induced abortion. The newspapers dubbed the mystery “The Trunk Case”, and filled their pages with lurid descriptions of the crime and poetic descriptions of the victim. She was, The New York Times said, a “young girl … [with] a face of singular loveliness… but her chief beauty was her great profusion of golden hair… that lay in heavy masses upon her breast.”

Where is Alice?
AliceBowlsbyHeadshot.jpgMeanwhile, in Patterson, New Jersey, Caroline Bowlsy worried about her daughter, 25-year-old Alice (pictured). She had left on the 23rd, from her aunt’s house in Newark, where she had been tending to her sick uncle, to go to New York and take in a matinee with Walter F. Conklin, two years her junior. Walter was the son of a Newark alderman and worked at a silk factory. He had met Alice at the dressmaker’s shop where she worked and the two of them had struck up a romantic attachment.

. Mrs. Bowlsby asked the family dentist, Dr. Joseph T. Parker, what she should do. Parker, though worried that evil had befallen the young woman, tried to reassure the frantic mother that perhaps Alice had taken ill and was resting up somewhere before returning home.

Caroline had already suffered much. Her abusive, alcoholic husband (described in one newspaper as “a dissipated mechanic”) had abandoned her to care for their three daughters, Alice, Carrie, and Addie. The four of them lived together, working as dressmakers.

The family doctor, Theodore F. Kinney, had also heard of Alice’s disappearance, and had read about the gruesome discovery in the Sunday and Monday papers. He consulted with Parker, who practiced in the same building, about whether or not the woman in the trunk could be the missing Alice. On Tuesday, August 29, Dr. Kinney went to Belleview Hospital to view the body and learn if the dead girl was his patient.

Identification Dr. Kinney found the body in a state of such decomposition that he couldn’t just identify her on first sight. However, upon closer examination, Kinney was able to tentatively identify her as Alice by her scars — particularly an unusually-placed vaccination scar, and by a scar on her face. Kinney returned to New Jersey, and together with Dr. Parker went to Mrs. Bowlsby and broached the topic of the “trunk murder.” Caroline cried out, “Is it Alice?” Dr. Parker told her he believed that it was, leaving Caroline and her surviving daughters prostrated with grief.

He returned to Belleview with Parker, who was able to identify Alice positively by her facial scar and a mole, as well as by the dental work he had done on her. Both men concurred on the identification. The dead woman was Alice Augusta Bowlsby.

The Doctor Jacob-Rosenzweig.jpgDr. Jacob Rosenweig
William Peckett, the cartman who had brought the trunk to the station, was located. He showed police the house where he had picked up the trunk, at the behest of the young woman at the train depot. And the police arrested the doctor who lived there — Dr. Jacob Rosenzweig (pictured). The identification of Rosenzweig as the “butcher” who had presumably killed the young woman in the trunk came as no surprise to reporters and police detectives. He had, in fact, been one of the city’s abortionists featured in a New York Times article, “The Evil of the Age,” just a week earlier.

The article had republished an ad from the New York Herald, reading, “A. — Ladies in trouble guaranteed immediate relief, sure and safe; no fees required until perfectly satisfied; elegant rooms and nursing provided. Dr. Ascher. Amity-place. $c.”

It went on to note that “Dr. Ascher” was actually Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig had reportedly begun as a saloon owner, but qualified himself as a doctor and branched out into abortion on the basis of a $40 diploma he’d bought from a diploma mill in Philadelphia.

Incriminating Evidence When Dr. Kinney and Dr. Parker went to the police to report on the identity of the dead woman, they were brought to Rosenweig’s home to see if they could identify anything there as belonging to Alice Bowlsby. They identified a hemstitched cambric handkerchief, marked “A. A. Bowlsby”, and a blue sash that the men could not say for sure was Alice’s, though they believed it to be. This strengthened the identification of Rosenzweig as the abortionist.

A Shift of Attitude Under Boss Tweed, abortion, though illegal, had been tolerated. But the gruesome discovery of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl crammed rudely into a trunk excited too much outcry for any politician to step in and intervene. Rosenzweig would be brought to trial. And as the evidence against him mounted, nobody doubted that he would be convicted.

Coverage was particularly lurid. An article in the September 14, 1871 Edwardsville Intelligencer said, “it has transpired that Rosenzweig has murdered many women by malpractice, and that his record will be shown to be terrible. A man who went to his house declares that Rosenzweig’s den was a perfect charnel house; that he saw a number of dead bodies lying in his establishment, and that it was a sickening and horrible sight to see the brutal manner in which women were treated who applied to him for professional services.”

The Inquest On September 1, 1871, a Coroner’s Jury was convened. Alice’s mother was in no state to view her daughter’s body or to participate in the inquest.

Conklin-Suicide.pngAlice’s lover, identified as the baby’s father by his mother, was also absent. The day before the start of the inquest he had gone into a room of the silk warehouse his family owned and shot himself dead. He left a suicide note reading, “I have long had a morbid idea of the worthlessness of life, and now to be obliged to testify in this affair and cause unpleasantness to my family is more than life is worth.”

The men of the Coroner’s Jury, after being sworn in, were first brought to the morgue, where Alice’s body lay under a sheet. Dr. Kinney and Dr. Parker showed the Jury the marks by which they had identified the dead woman as Alice. The Jury then returned to the hearing room, where they cast angry and disgusted looks at Rosenzweig, who turned away and looked out the window.

The Cartman’s Testimony

Pickett the cartman testified about the young woman who had hired him to collect the trunk. She had given her name as Julia Sidney, and had quibbled over the $1 fee but had paid it when Pickett went into a store and broke a $5 for her. He was instructed to go to the house at 687 Second Avenue and ring the basement bell. The trunk, she said, would be brought to him. Pickett had gone to the address and rung the bell as instructed. A man opened the door and helped him to carry the trunk to the cart, but didn’t speak to him. Pickett identified Rosenzweig as that man.

Pickett then testified that he had brought the trunk to the depot, where he’d found Julia Sidney waiting for him at the baggage drop-off. The trunk was too heavy for Pickett to carry himself, so he’d gotten the depot baggage boy to help. The boy, 12-year-old Alexander Potts, was present as a witness, and Pickett identified him. With some help from Julia, Pickett and Alexander loaded the trunk onto a baggage cart. Julia had examined the trunk, fretted that the lock was failing, and asked Alexander to get her a rope to fasten it more securely. He helped her get a strap. With that, Pickett had gone back to the cart stand, and had nothing more to contribute to the inquest.

The Boy’s Testimony

Alexander was called to testify. He testified that the woman calling herself Julia Sidney, dressed “like a poor girl”, had arrived at the station in a hired cab and asked him how to get to the ticket office. He’d brought her there, and she’d bought a ticket to Chicago, while lamenting that she didn’t want to make the trip herself. When Pickett had driven up, Julia had asked Alexander to help with the trunk. She had fussed about the trunk being handled carefully, saying that it contained glass and other fragile objects. Julia had asked for a rope to fasten the trunk with, and Alexander had gotten the baggage master to fasten it with a strap. Julia had tried to leave without paying for the strap. She checked the trunk for Chicago, tipped Alexander a nickle, and pondered where to go for dinner. Alexander had recommended a place, assuring her that she had plenty of time to return in time to get a good seat on the train. She told the boy she was going to meet some friends and would pay him more on her return. She then walked off and Alexander never saw her again.

The Baggage Master’s Testimony

The baggage master, Frank Dunning, testified that he had seen the trunk at the depot; he’d supplied the strap to fasten it. He testified that the trunk was very weak, that he had his doubts that it would make the trip to Chicago intact, and also doubted that the owner of the trunk could afford to pay him the $1 for the strap, which he had nailed in place. He’d also been present when the trunk was opened and the body discovered.

The Undertaker’s Testimony

James F. Boyle, an undertaker, testified that on the morning of Saturday, August 26, a man came to his establishment, saying that a servant girl of his had died. She’d only had about $10. He wanted to know how much it would cost to bury her. Boyle had asked where the girl was to be buried, and the man had said he wasn’t particular; the cheapest place would suffice. He also wanted to know how quickly the preparations could be finished. Boyle had told him about an hour and a half. He asked where the dead girl was, to which the would only reply that she wasn’t far away. Boyle had asked about the doctor who had tended the girl, and was told he was downtown. Boyle said that he would need a medical certificate. The man had left, saying he would return later with the medical certificate, but he never did. Boyle testified that he’s deen him later, standing outside the house on Second Avenue. He said he identified him later, at the police station, as Dr. Rosenzweig.

The Servant’s Testimony

Jane Johnson, Rosenzweig’s servant, testified that she had seen a woman dressed in white, with a white bonnet, admitted to the home on August 23. The woman went upstairs. She never saw the woman again. She identified a piece of a diaper and a towel, taken from the trunk, as belonging to the Rosenzweig household.

Testimony from the Autopsy

Dr. Cushman, who had performed the autopsy, reported that he had removed the body from the trunk, along with an army blanket, a quilt, a bed-tick, a chemise, and two white muslin rags. The body had no external marks of trauma, though there was substantial decomposition. All of the organs of the chest had been normal, but inside the pelvis he found evidence of peritonitis and uterine lacerations caused by a pointed instrument. He concluded that the young woman, later identified as Alice Bowlsby, had died from an abortion.

The Landlady’s Testimony

A woman named Marian Arthur testified that she had let professional rooms to a man she had always known as Dr. Ascher, who she identified by pointing to Dr. Rosenzweig. She said that Ascher/Rosenzweig “has a considerable practice, but more gentlemen than ladies.”

Rosenzweig Questions

RosenzweigArrest.pngRosenzweig’s arrestRosenzweig answered few questions for the Coroner’s Jury, only indicating that he was a Polish-born physician, 39 years of age. His attorney argued that “a great deal of the testimony admitted is illegal,” and the suspect denied “any participation in the atrocities charged”.

The Coroner’s Jury Reaches a Verdict

The Jury quickly returned their verdict, that Alice Bowlsby had died from a criminal abortion performed some time between August 23 and August 26, and that Jacob Rosenzweig was the perpetrator.

News coverage of the inquest concluded by saying that the District Attorney, when interviewed, “said there was no possible chance of escape for the abortionist, and that he is certain of seven years’ retirement from professional life at Sing Sing.”

The Trial Begins The trial was a sensation, drawing huge crowds to the brownstone couthouse. The first motion in open court was by Rosenzweig’s co-counsel, Mr. Hummell, who pleaded unsuccessfully for an adjournment to allow main counsel, William Howe, to recover from an illness. A jury was empanelled: a cigar maker, a tailor, a builder, a plasterer, a speculator, two brokers, a hatter, a grocer, an agent, a dry goods merchant, and a tobbaconist.

The First Day of Testimony

On this, the first day of testimony, the infamous trunk was brought into the courtroom and entered into evidence.

Alice’s Family

Alice’s mother, distraught, agitated, and dressed in mourning, took the stand. She testified about the last time she’d seen her daughter alive, and about Alice’s possessions, found at Dr. Rosenzweig’s home. She also briefly testified about Alice’s relationship with Walter Conklin.

Next, Alice’s sister Carrie testified. She spoke of the last time she’d seen her sister alive, and corroborated her mother’s testimony about Alice’s possessions.

Rosenzweig’s Servant

Jane Johnson, a servant working at Rosenzweig’s house, testified that she had been living under his roof for three months prior to Alice’s death. She left Rosenzweig’s employ on the 29th of August, when the trouble had errupted over the discovery of Alice Bowlsby’s body.

Rosenzweig lived with his wife, four children, and a boarder named Abraham Sigel. A woman named Netta was a frequent visitor, up until about noon on the 23rd or 24th of August (which Jane recalled as the Wednesday or Thursday prior to the discovery of Alice’s body). On that day, Jane saw Rosenzweig come into the house through the basement and admit a woman, clad in a white dress with ruffles and tucks, through the main entrance. This woman immediately went upstairs.

On Friday morning, the 25th, Mrs. Rosenzweig sent Jane on an errand that kept her out of the house all morning. Jane reported seeing Nettie at the house that day.

Early in the morning of the 26th, Jane was sent to take Rosenzweig’s children to Central park. She didn’t return until late afternoon. She could not positively identify the trunk, but there had been one like it in Rosenzweig’s house. She believed, from what she’d heard from Rosenzweig’s daughter Rosie, that it belonged to Nettie. Jane did positively identify a baby blanket found in the trunk as belonging to the Rosenzweig family.

On cross-examination, Jane indicated that she’d not heard or noticed any particular excitement or stir about the house on the days in question, other than that naturally involved with the birth of the Rosenzweigs’ new baby.

The Cabman

Pickett the cabman gave the same testimony he’d given to the Coroner’s Jury. Extenisve cross-examination didn’t shake him in his story. He identified the trunk, as did several other witnesses, including the baggage boy, police officer, baggage master, and morgue attendant, all of whom reiterated testimony given at the Coroner’s Jury. Alice’s dentist and family doctor testified about how they’d identified her body. Boyd the undertaker reiterated his testimony from the Coroner’s Jury. The police who searched Rosenzweig’s house testified about the evidence they’d found there.

A woman named Nellie Willis was called to the stand to identify Rosenzweig as the man who had performed an abortion on her, about two and a half years earlier, that had left her hospitalized for weeks, and had nearly killed her. Rosenzweig had been practicing then as Dr. Ascher.

Dr. Cushman testified in great detail about the autopsy he’d performed. Alice’s uterus had been enlarged, the cervix dilated, and various lacerations, giving evidence of an abortion which had caused fatal infection. The trial was adjourned for the day during cross-examination.

Day two of testimony began the the defense completing the cross-examination of Dr. Cushman. A Dr. Finnell was sworn in, and corraborated Cushman’s testimony. The prosecution rested its case.

The Defense

The defense, while conceding that the crime against Alice was “frightful, repulsive, horrible”, and conceding that there was a strong circumstantial case, held that it had not been proved that Rosenzweig had actually killed Alice.

Howe called two doctors to the stand, Garrish and Parker, who gave some medical testimony that made so little impression on reporters that I’ve been able to find no record of it.

About the Handkerchief

The defense called Cornelia Bowlsby of Brooklyn, who was not related to the dead woman. Mrs. Bowlsby of Brooklyn claimed that the handkerchief identified as Alice’s actually belonged to her daughter, Anna. She said that she and her daughters had visited the Rosenzweig home in August, and that Anna had spilled some wine and wiped it up with the handkerchief, and had left it behind. She said Anna had seen articles about Alice’s death in the newspapers, with great attention focused on the handkerchief, and had brought it to her mother’s attention. Mrs. Bowlsby then felt compelled, she said, to step forward to identify it. On cross-examination, she indicated that she’d not given any thought to the handkerchief until Mrs. Rosenzweig had come to her house to talk to her about it three weeks before the trial, and she wavered a bit on her description of the handkerchief. She also admitted that her husband had been expelled from the same college of physicians that Rosenzweig had gotten a phony diploma from.

A Weak Alibi

The defense also produced as witnesses the Cohen brothers, Jacob and Lewis, who placed Rosenzweig at their home on the 26th, providing medical care to Jacob. Lewis testified that Rosenzweig had arrived at 10 a.m. and had stayed until 2 p.m.; Jacob testified that Rosenzweig he had arrived at about 12:30 and stayed two or three hours. But on cross-examination, both brothers became less clear about what day Rosenzweig had actually been at the house, with Jacob saying that it was two or three days before Rosenzweig was arrested, and Lewis only being able to say it was a Saturday in the later part of August.

Weak Character Witnesses

Mr. M. Samuels took the stand, saying he’d known Rosenzweig for at least six years, during which he’d treated his brother at their father’s house. He said that Rosenzweig had visited at his house on the day he was arrested — Monday — and had been there the previous Saturday as well at about 3 p.m.

The defense also brought forward eight character witnesses, but most of them could only verify that they knew Rosenzweig as a physician. Only three of the eight testified that they personally knew that he was “a man of good character.”

The Mysterious Netta

The vanished Netta, also identified as Yetty Fox, was produced as a defense witness. She said she had secretly gone to Rosenzweig’s house on the Thursday prior to the 26th, due to illness, and had been dressed in white. She said she had come forward after reading accounts that placed importance on the entrance to Rosenzweig’s home of a woman dressed in white.

The Defendant Takes the Stand

JacobRosenzweig.jpgRosenzweigWhen Rosenzweig took the stand in his own defense, according to the New York Times, “his testimony was singularly incoherent, and he totally failed in his endeavor to remove the effect of the case made by the prosecution.”

Rosenzweig testified that he knew Cornelia Bowlsby, and her daughters, who lived in Brooklyn, but never knew any Bowlsbys that lived in Patterson, New Jersey. He said he knew of nobody named Conklin from Patterson, New Jersey, and that nobody had arranged for Alice Bowlsby to board at his home. He denied having ever performed an abortion on anybody. He denied that any woman had died in his house during the time period in question, saying, “if she did I would know it.”

He said any evidence of a pregnancy at his home was due to the fact that five weeks prior to his arrest his wife had given birth in the family home. He said he’d brought Netta to his house to see the baby, and had come in through the basement because he’d forgotten his key. Netta, he said, was the white-clad woman the servant had seen. He insisted that no other woman dressed in white had come to his house at all during the period in question.

Rosenzweig also testified that he had never seen the carman, William Peckett, until after his arrest. He also insisted that he’d never seen the handkerchief until after his arrest. He denied ever having seen the trunk. He admitted to having visited Boyle, the undertaker, but said he’d been sent by a Jewish society to get prices for funerals for the poor.

Under cross-examination, Rosenzweig admitted to practicing under the name of “Dr. Asher,” but that he only did so because he’d taken over the previous doctor’s practice and had simply left the name on the door. He denied having any knowledge of some other physicians who were evidently part of an abortion ring.

Closing Arguments

The Defense

Howe.jpgWilliam Howe
The court was crowded, with Rosenzweig’s wife and 14-year-old daughter arriving early. Alice’s family did not attend, but the Mrs. Bowlsby of Brooklyn was there with her daughter as well.

Defense attorney Howe launched into a challenge for the court to prove that Alice Bowlsby had been alive on August 24, and that if an abortion had been performed it had not been necessary to try to preserve her life. His motions were denied.

In his closing argument, Howe proved a less than stellar spokesman for his client. He attacked Alice’s mother for not having gone to the morgue personally to identify her daughter’s body, instead having “deputed a hired dentist and a hireling physician”. He then insisted that the identification was insufficient to prove that the dead woman was in fact Alice Bowlsby. How, he said, could Rosenzweig be convicted of killing Alice Bowlsby when it hadn’t been sufficiently been proven that Alice Bowlsby was in fact dead? Then he pointed out that the last people to see Alice Bowlsby alive had seen her in New Jersey, and no witnesses had seen her alive in New York. Sure, he conceded, Alice’s things were in New York, but had Alice brought them to New York alive and died there?

Then he theorized that Conklin, “who betrayed the girl, procured her death to conceal his guilt, and subsequently sent to body to the house of a so-called New-York abortionist” — thus admitting that Alice’s body had indeed been at his client’s house and that his client was known as an abortionist, assertions that his client had denied during the trial.

He then argued that had Rosenzweig actually killed Alice, he’d hardly have kept her sash, dress pads, and handkerchief around the house to be discovered. Then he used the lack of larger, more easily identifiable items of Alice’s dress at Rosenzweig’s home as proof that Alice hadn’t been there.

Howe pleaded Rosenzweig’s reputation, his family, his home, and his charities, while Mrs. Rosenzweig and their daughter wept openly.

The Prosecution

The prosecutor began by focusing on the horrible nature of the crime. According to the New York Times, the District attorney, addressing the court, “observed that he never rose to open a case of this description without feeling constituting the most lively emotions within the heart. The surroundings of a case of this character were such that wherever we look, to whatever point of the compass they direct their attention, death, blood and murder stared them in the face. If the prisoner was guilty of the crime with which he stood charged, he was guilty of one of the highest crimes known to the law. And yet for some unaccountable reason … our legislators and governors have seen fit to construct the law so that a man who takes the life of the unborn child, and also of the mother, by no jury of his country or by no Judge can he be consigned to the gallows.”

He described the plight of a girl like Alice, desperate to save her reputation and not to shame her mother and family, abandoned by her lover to face her shame alone.

He reiterated the evidence identifying the dead woman as Alice Bowlsby. He reiterated that only Alice and her killer knew exactly what had been done to her, and Alice had taken the secret to her grave. He reviewed the evidence that Alice had been at Rosenzweig’s home, that her body, crammed into a trunk, had been removed from that home.

He contrasted the respectable Dr. Rosenzweig’s practice with that of the disreputable Dr. Ascher — one and the same man.

He ended with a plea for justice not just for Alice, but for her unborn baby, and held that any man who loved his wife and children would have to convict.

The Verdict

A man identified as “Recorder Hackett” read the applicable laws to the jury, the reviewed all the evidence, including inconsistencies in the defense’s case. He closed by saying, “The crime of which the prisoner is accused has been practiced from the formation of the world, and will continue to be practiced as long as human nature remains as it is. It can only be restrained by potent legislative penalties and the vindications of the law. The poor girl’s story is shortly told. Trusting, betrayed, she and her seducer sleep the sleep that knows no waking. Your duty is to calmly weigh the testimony, and render a verdict according to your oaths.”

SingSingStatePrisonNewYork.jpgSing-Sing PrisonThe jury deliberated just under two hours before finding Rosenzweig guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. The New York Times noted, “The testimony presented so clear a case against Rosenzweig that he himself seemed to have abandoned all hope of escape. he expressed no astonishment at the verdict, though he showed that he thoroughly realized the horror of his situation.”

Upon the judge dismissing the court, Mrs. Rosenzweig wept and went to embrace her husband one last time before he was taken away. His daughter threw herself on the floor shrieking, crying out curses on everybody who had spoken against her father: “Oh, may my God curse every one who has went against you, father; may their flesh rot from their bones; may their lives wither up; may they die rotten. Oh, father, if I die for it, I’ll have all their lives!” She then threw herself onto her father and clung to him. Through all of this, Rosenzweig remained stoic. He was led outside, past a jeering crowd, and taken to Sing-Sing.

The Aftermath ConklinInCoffin.jpgWalter Conklin was buried in the family plot in Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Patterson, New Jersey. .Alice was originally buried in a New York potter’s field, but her body was later moved to a private cemetery somewhere in New Jersey.

The feminist newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, published a scathing piece about the death of Alice and her lover, placing the blame on a society that winked at unchaste men but condemned women who showed evidence of unchastity themselves:

  • We bring the dead bodies of the father, mother and the unborn child and lay them on society’s doorstep, saying, “Behold your handiwork.” This is no time to be scrupulous in our language. We cannot stand to pick words which hundreds are running the risks which Miss Bowlsby ran to satisfy the laws of society. We say that society itself is the patron of abortionists, that society’s present laws make their occupation excusable, nay, a necessity; that the very men who are so loud in their denunciations of Rosenzweig and his class have, nine out of every ten of them, paid for his assistance, and, among women, nine out of ten would act as Alice Bowlsby did, if placed in the same position.
  • ….
  • You screech at Rosenzweig today; you employed him yesterday, and will produce patients for his successor tomorrow, and go to church next Sunday and look as devout as a Chadband. And yet, as society exists, he has been your friend. How many of your daughters owe the shelter of your roofs to him? Ah! were that question fairly solved, it would ignite a torch whose lurid glare would inflame this city from end to end, and every one would proclaim how dreadfully bad his neighbor was, and point out the skeleton in his neighbor’s closet.
  • ….
  • WoodhullClafflinWeekly.gifThe Rosenzweigs step in and say, practically, “I will spare you nine deaths out of the ten (for only one in a hundred dies under my hands). I will send fifty more out of the hundred victims home, still virtuous according to your rules, because no one knows of the so-called transgression, and the remainder shall have their error known only to their parents or relatives, and the outside world and future husbands shall remain in happy and blissful ignorance of the truth. All this I will do for one hundred dollars each.” You find the money, you have the private interview with Rosenzweig (not that you are interested; oh, no, it is all out of pure friendship; you didn’t do it; it was some other man.) You cheat society’s rules of its victims, until another victim dies. Then you howl at their depravity and Rosenzweig’s villainy.

Alice’s mortification at her predicament must have been great. She was a Sunday school teacher and an active member of her church. Whether it was fear of censure alone that drove her to sacrifice her baby and risk her own life at the hands of Rosenzweig is a secret she took to her grave.

A public outcry against abortionists led to laws nationwide calling for stiffer penalties for abortionists. Ironically, Rosenzweig’s attorney was able to leverage the new law into an appeal that freed his client on a technicality after he had served only one year of his sentence.

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.

Visit Alice’s memorial at Find-a-Grave.

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


Illustration from The great “trunk mystery” of New York City. Murder of the beautiful Miss Alice A. Bowlsby, of Paterson, N.J., New York: Hill & Co., 1872

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  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin