SUMMARY: Emma Gill, age 26, died in Bridgeport, Massachusetts on September 12, 1898 after a botched abortion perpetrated by Dr. Nancy Guilford.
A Gruesome Discovery Click to enlarge.
On September 12 1898, three young boys discovered rubber-wrapped parcels containing the dismembered body of a young woman near Seaview Avenue Bridge in Bridgeport, Massachusetts. The coroner determined that she had died within the previous 7 to 12 hours from a botched abortion.
Thousands of people went to the morgue in Boston to examine the head of the decapitated brown-haired blond (scroll down for picture), and although several false identifications were made, the woman was eventually identified as 26-year-old Emma Gill. The identity was confirmed through dental recordsFinally Identified
Emma had been missing since the first week of September, when she had left her home in Lynn, Massachusetts, saying that she felt ill and was going to spend some time with her future mother-in-law to take in the healthful sea air. Emma, it turned out, had been pregnant to a man who was not her fiancé. This man, Harry Oxley of Southington, Massachusetts, had arranged the abortion and sent payments to Guildord.
Oxley was arrested for his complicity.Investigation
Police investigated intensively, finding the quarry whence the stones weighting down the parcels had come and the stable from which the carriage used to dump the body parts had been rented. Of particular interest was a laundry mark, “G. 51,” on some of the cloth used to wrap body parts. The laundry mark was eventually traced to the son of Dr. Nancy Guilford, a known abortionist. Because Guilford was a woman and practiced ob/gyn, she was typically referred to as a midwife. She was identified as the abortionist, and her son as an accomplice. Flight
Click to enlarge.
The day after Emma’s dismembered body was found, Guilford fled the country, first to Canada, then to England where she was very nearly apprehended by Scotland Yard thanks to the dogged persistence of journalists who chased her when she got off the boat. She fled to France but returned to London where she was finally captured and brought back to the U.S. to stand trial.
While law enforcement abroad was tracking down the abortionist herself, Bridgeport police were busy. In addition to arresting Oxley, they arrested Guilford’s daughter, Eudora, and son, Harry, along with washerwoman Rosa Drayton and her daughter, Clara, who worked as a maid. Police were also searching Guilford’s home. There they found paperwork related to the money transfers for the abortion fee.
Guilford’s murder trial came to an abrupt end when a juror became too ill to continue. Rather than go through another trial, Guilford pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years in prison and, for some reason, a one-dollar fine. Due to legal wranglings, the charges against her accomplices were dismissed. Guilford was released from prison after eight years due to time off for good behavior. She moved to Hartford, Connecticut and practiced medicine under the assumed name Alice Gibbs. There, in 1920 and at the age of 66, she was arrested for another abortion death.