Kitty Cody

SUMMARY: Kitty Cody, age 22, died January 16, 1889 in Brooklyn of the effects of an abortifacient and attempted self-abortion with an unspecified instrument.

An inquest was held into the January 16, 1889 death of 22-year-old Kitty Cody, a young Oyster Bay woman, in Brooklyn.

Frank P. Dudgeon had set Kitty up in Mrs. Anyon’s house at 85 West Eighty-Ninth Street. Kitty took sick there. Mrs. Anyon, who testified that Dudgeon had sent a box to Kitty, along with “a letter from him explaining the use of the contents of the box.” The box evidently contained abortifacients.

Kitty died at the apartment of Mrs. M. A. Harriman at 124 Flatbush Avenue.

The inquest was a circus, “held in the Supervisor’s chamber, which was literally packed with spectators. It was replete with dramatic incidents, with some of which the crowd expressed its sympathies with the prosecution by breaking into applause.”

Mrs. Harriman attended the inquest with her daughter, Mrs. Clara Fernald. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle lavished attention on Mrs. Harriman’s attire, “a handsome black satin dress trimmed with lace, a long sealskin cloak edged with furn, straw colored kid gloves and a bonnet which was chiefly noticeable for its profusion of yellow feathers.”

Dudgeon’s attire was noted as plain and funeral but accompanied by gold jewelry.

The state entered into evidence an affidavit from Nelly Cody, Kitty’s sister. “It embodied extracts from a letter to the dead girl signed Petie, which accompanied a package containing medicine and a syringe.”

A witness was produced who identified Dudgeon as the man who had brought the package to Anyon’s house.

Dr. Charles F. Hall and Mrs. M. A. Flarriman were found to be complicit in concealing the commission of an abortion.

The prosecutor’s office concluded that Kitty, provided with the abortion drugs, had attempted an abortion, then used an instrument provided to her to perform a self-induced abortion.

On May 21, she went to a doctor who cared for her until hospitalizing her on June 6. While hospitalized she’d said something that had led to the belief that Dr. Charles Singley had perpetrated an abortion. Singley, when arrested, said that Kitty was trying to blackmail him. His only contact with her had been, he said, when she’d come to his office for treatment for a pelvic abscess. He’d treated her, she’d paid her $2, and left. This had been about a month prior to seeking care from the doctor who had hospitalized her.

Dudgeon married Kitty the day before her death.

Dudgeon was tried as an accessory to manslaughter in Kitty’s death, but in April of 1889 “escaped conviction by a disagreement of the jury, which stood eight to four for conviction of manslaughter in the first degree.”

He was released on $10,000 bail, which he was able to pay himself in cash. In fact, so prosperous was Dudgeon that he managed to arrange a lavish birthday banquet for himself while he was in jail.

Kitty’s father, James Cody of Oyster Bay, sued Dudgeon for $100,000.

However, in July of 1890, the DA of Kings County dismissed the indictment.

  • “Weaving a Web,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 24, 1889
  • For Kitty Cody’s Death,” The New York TImes, Jan. 29, 1889
  • Trial of Frank P. Dudgeon,” The New York Evening Telegram, Apr. 1, 1889
  • “Dudgeon’s Indictment Dismissed,” The New York Times, Jul. 12, 1890
  • “A Banquet in Jail,” Philadelphia Times, Jan. 29, 1889
  • “Dr. Singley Exonerated,” Chicago Inter Ocean, Jul. 1, 1890
  • “Brooklyn,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 1889