Carrie McDonald

Carrie McDonald1920s, colorado, illegalunknownOn August 1, 1922, 27-year-old divorcee Carrie McDonald died at the county hospital in Denver, Colorado from the effects of an abortion. She had been taken there after her friends realized that the care they were providing to her would not be enough to help her.

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When she was admitted, Carrie insisted that she’d been suffering from ptomaine poisoning, but an inquest was ordered over the protests of Carrie’s parents, Mr & Mrs. F. J. Meehan, and her brother, Willie Meehan.

Carrie had been living in a rooming house as Carrie Healy with a chauffeur called Ed Healy, whose real name was Ed Hanley. He reportedly had been planning to marry Carrie as soon as his divorce was finalized. He left the boarding house several weeks before Carrie’s death and hadn’t been seen since.

Six women were held during the investigation because police believed that they might have information about the abortion. They insisted that Carrie had told them about the abortion, perpetrated on July 7, but had been sworn to secrecy as to the identity of the midwife who had perpetrated it.

Sadie Hines, a beautician who had known Carrie for about a year, said that Carrie had spoken for weeks about arranging an abortion and had asked Sadie to give her the money, but Sadie said she’d refused.

After the abortion, Sadie said, she’d gone for a car ride with Carrie, who then told her that the baby had been born alive and that she’d heard it crying. “They” had asked if she wanted to see it, and she’d said no. After that, Carrie said, she’d known nothing of the baby’s whereabouts. Sadie, however, got the impression that the baby had been killed shortly after birth.

Fort Collins police helped Denver police in the search for Mrs. Alma Dittman, age 52, suspected to have something to do with Carrie’s death, though Alma denied any knowledge of the fatal abortion. She had been implicated, along with Mrs. Ida Cathcart, by Carrie’s friend Margaret Lynch, who later recanted her story and insisted she’d known nothing about an abortion.

Dittman was located at Fort Morgan and brought back for questioning. Dittman said that she’d been called in to care for Carrie after a self-induced abortion. She denied any knowledge of what had happened to Carrie’s baby. A search of her home had revealed surgical instruments.

I have been unable to determine the outcome of the case.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

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

  • “Officers Here Asked to Help Find Woman”, Fort Collins Courier, Aug. 8, 1922
  • “Woman Denies Story Told in Death of Mrs. Carrie McDonald,” Denver Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 15, 1922
  • “Police Hunt Mystery Woman and Arrest Six Others as Missing Baby’s Mother Dies,” The Denver Post, Aug. 5, 1922
  • “Suspect Denies Performing Fatal Operation on Girl,” The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 7, 1922
  • “Two Women Held on Murder Charge in Death of Girl,” The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 8, 1922
  • “Woman Acquitted of Murder Charge,” The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 13, 1922
  • “Denver Divorcee’s Death, Supposedly of Ptomaine Poisoning, Ordered Probed, Denver Post, Aug. 3, 1922
  • “Seventh Woman Arrested in Probe of Girl’s Death,” Denver Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 6, 1922

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