Pearl Kilday

The January 24, 1912 death of Mrs. Pearl Kilday of Denver, CO., is erroneously identified as an abortion death in a court document.

Dr. J. E. Thompson of Denver, Colorado was accused of perpetrating the alleged abortion on January 18, 1912. Pearl died several days later — I believe on January 24. Thompson and Denver abortionist Dr. Bennett Graff performed an autopsy and declared that Pearl had died from stenosis (narrowing) of the stomach. The state board of health refused to accept the death certificate and referred the case to the board of medical examiners.

Evidently things at the board were not handled professionally. Board members went to the press before the investigation was done and spread a lot of gossip about the case. During a hearing, the attorney for Graff and Thompson got into a verbal altercation with one of the doctors testifying against them, and the lawyer and witness nearly went out into the hall to settle the matter with fisticuffs.

Eventually Pearl’s body was exhumed, much to the consternation of her husband, and a second autopsy was performed which found that Pearl had indeed died from stenosis of the stomach.

Thompson sued for the return of his license but his request was denied.


  • Thompson v. State Board 59 Colo. Apr., ’15
  • The Critique, January – December, 1912