Marie Boyens

SUMMARY: Marie Boyens, age 26, died on September 11, 1881 in her Chicago apartment after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Henry B. Upton.

On the evening of Sunday, September 11, 1881, the body of 26-year-old Marie Boyens (also spelled Bojens) was found at an apartment in Chicago. Dr. Henry B. Upton was identified by the coroner’s jury as the perpetrator of the abortion that had killed her. Dr. Bluthardt, who had performed a post-mortem examination, concluded that Marie “had been tampered with” several days before her death, leaving terrible internal injuries, and that about an hour before her death, which happened at about 10:00 on a Sunday evening, somebody had used some sort of instrument to extract the four-month fetus which had died but had not been expelled.

The landlady of the apartment, Mrs. Elizabeth Mills, evidently had “an understanding” with Upton. Mills and John Patterson, described as Mills’ “friendly boarder,” were called to testify.

Mills denied even knowing Upton, and gave conflicting testimony about encounters with him, once saying that she’d seen him coming by daily to tend to Marie and another time saying that she’d only seen him once, when he’d left Marie’s room the day she died.

Mills furthermore said she hadn’t even known the name of her dead lodger. Marie had taken the rooms with no visible means of support, claiming that she had a brother who would come along at a later time and pay for the room.

Patterson, however, testified that he’d seen Upton and Mills going up the stairs to Marie’s room together about half an hour earlier. At the time of Marie’s death, Upton went downstairs, summoned Mills, and left the house with her. They came back about half an hour later.

Mills was a nurse, and admitted that she had attended to Marie in a nursing capacity as she sickened, but in spite of the copious amount of vaginal bleeding Marie’s injuries would have caused, Mills insisted she’d had no clue of any abortion being perpetrated.

Jane McCrady, another boarder that had “a feud of long standing” with Mills, and had once been fined for assaulting her, testified that she’d seen Mills in Marie’s room that night with a washbowl in her hands. She said that about a year earlier Mills had shown her “a long hook-ended instrument, and told her it was used to produce abortions, and that she, Mrs. Mills, could use it as well as any one.”

McCrady said that she’d seen Patterson “tiptoeing” down the stairs late the night of Marie’s death, with “a suspicious bundle done up in newspapers and carried in a suspicious way.”Tetsey Annie Shaw, “spinster and clairvoyant,” also testified to seeing Upton going upstairs with Mills and seeing Patterson leave the house with a bundle under his arm.

McCrady and two other women testified that “the doctor, whom they had all come to regard with suspicion, was in the habit of entering the house like a thief” and leaving the house wearing a different hat, which struck all three as a strange thing to do.

The coroner’s jury at first wanted to hold Mills as an accessory, but decided to let her be free on bail to attend to her two small children until the Grand Jury convened.


  • “Medical Murder: Dr. H. B. Upton Wanted to Answer to the Charge of Abortion,” Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1881
  • “Medical Murder: Inquest on the Body of Marie Boyens” The Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1881