SUMMARY: On May 18, 1883, Julia Renacheve Seymour, age 21, died in Cleveland from an abortion perpetrated by midwife Sylvia Webster.
Twenty-one-year-old Julia Renacheve “was a beautiful girl, petite, with dark eyes and a wealth of black hair.” She had lived with her sister, Mrs. Jacob C. Weisman, in Cleveland, Ohio, for two years, ever since she had taken a dislike to her father’s new wife.
Julia and her paramour, Charles W. Seymour, “moved in the best society” in the Cleveland community.
In early May of 1883, Julia left her sister’s home, saying that she was going to the country to visit some friends. Nobody thought anything was amiss until the evening of Tuesday, May 15, when Julia’s sister learned that she was at the Garden Street home of midwife Sylvia Webster.
She and her husband hurried to the home to find Julia deathly ill. Jacob told police that Julia had said to him, “I am a very sick girl. I have suffered martyrdom.” She said that Webster had perpetrated an abortion on her, but begged him to keep it a secret until after her death.
The following day, May 16, Charles Seymour got a marriage license. He brought the license to the bed where Julia lay dying, and they were married.
The next day, as Julia’s condition continued to deteriorate, her sister came by with a carriage to take her home. Just as they were leaving, Webster gave Julia some medicine, which rather than improve her condition put her into a stupor from which she never recovered.
That Friday, May 18, Julia died. On Saturday, she was buried.
Either one of the Weismans spoke up, or somebody else became suspicious, because Julia’s body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed, confirming that she had died from abortion complications.
In July of 1883, Webster was put on trial for Julia’s death. Seymour turned state’s evidence against Webster.
The trial resulted in a hung jury on June 15, with a vote of seven for conviction and five for acquittal.
- “Another of James Carey’s Ilk,” The Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1883
- “Died From an Abortion,” Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1883
- “A Crime Unearthed,” Topeka Daily Journal, May 22, 1883
- “Married on Her Deathbed,” Topeka Daily Commonwealth, May 22, 1883
- “Social Sensation,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 22, 1883
- “Why Mrs. Seymour Died,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 24, 1883
- “Failed to Agree,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1883