Elsie Stone

Elsie Stone19101919, oklahoma, illegaldoctorSUMMARY: Elsie Stone, age 18, died on or about August 18, 1917 from complications of an abortion perpetrated in the Oklahoma practice of Dr. A. H. Yates.

I learned about 18-year-old Elsie Stone‘s sad end while looking for memorials for the unborn at Find-a-Grave. Evidently Colby Weaver, who is interested in old graves, was intrigued by the inscription on another woman‘s headstone. Underneath the dates on the marker of Katherine Cross (October, 1917) are the words: “Murdered by Human Wolves.” Weaver tracked down a newspaper article on Katherine‘s death by criminal abortion, and there learned of this earlier victim.

The Seminole County News in Oklahoma reported that 18-year-old school teacher Elsie Stone went to the practice of Dr. A. H. Yates on August 15, 1917, for a “criminal operation.” Elise remained there for three or four days before being sent home, where she died.

On her death certificate, her death was attributed to “congestive chill.” But concerned citizens complained to the County Attorney, A.G. Nichols. Nichols ordered Elsie’s body exhumed and an autopsy performed at the cemetery; thus the real cause of her death was discovered.

Yates was arrested, along with Fred O’Neil, the principal of the school where Elise worked. The men waived arraignment. O’Neil, a married man, was accused of arranging the abortion. Elsie’s friends said that O’Neil was the father of her baby.

Yates and O’Neil were originally charged with murder, but because of legal technicalities the charges were reduced to manslaughter.

Yates was arrested for Katherine Cross’s abortion while awaiting trial.

Yates was subsequently acquitted even though the initial ballot for the jury was 11 to 1 for conviction.

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 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


  • Find-a-Grave memorial for Katherine Cross
  • “Exonerate Physician in Death of Young Teacher,” Muskogee (OK) Times, Feb. 22, 1918
  • “Charge Two Men Killed Girl,” Topeka (KS) Daily Capital, Aug. 30, 1917
  • untitled clipping, Haskell News, Mar. 7, 1918
  • “Konawa Men Waive Trial,” Tulsa Daily World, Aug. 31, 1917
  • “Konowa Physician bound Over on Second Charge,” Muskogee (OK) Times-Democrat, Oct. 23, 1917
  • “Arrest Two Oklahomans After Mysterious Death of Woman,” Paris (TX) Morning News, Aug. 30, 1917
  • “Hold for Manslaughter,” Wichita Beacon, Sept. 11, 1917
  • “Charge Physician Killed Girl,” Topeka Capital, Oct. 18, 1917
  • “A School Teacher and Doctor Held,” Wichita Beacon, Aug. 29, 1917
  • “Arrest Teacher and Doctor for Murder of Girl,” Wichita Eagle, Aug. 30, 1917
  • The Human Wolves of Konawa,” M. J. Alexander, Slice: The Magazine of Central Oklahoma, October 2013










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