Merl Williams #1930s #oklahoma #20s #illegalmidwife

SUMMARY: Merl Williams, age 21, died on April 24, 1937 after an abortion at the practice of midwife Cordelia Moore in Oklahoma.


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Merl Williams

On April 24, 1937, Miss Merl Williams of Watonga, Oklahoma, died of peritonitis. She was 21 years old, a worker in a poultry packing plant. Her death was attributed to a botched abortion.

A midwife, 57-year-old. Cordelia Moore, was charged with abortion murder. An investigation found evidence that Moore, formerly a registered nurse, had perpetrated hundreds of abortions in her home in Longdale, Oklahoma.

After her arrest, Moore "unworriedly set her glasses on the end of her nose and continued her quilting in the county jail." Her husband, John, actually got up in his cell and jigged when a jaunty tune came on the radio.

W. C. Mouse, a railroad engineer, testified that he had taken Merl to Moore's 3-room farm house on April 11, not knowing the reason for the visit. He said only that he had heard Merl ask Moore, "Will it be dangerous?"

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Cordelia Moore


The state also gathered 14 additional witnesses in the case against Moore, including women swearing under oath that Moore had done abortions on them.



The prosecutors were also investigating the possible abortion death of a married woman a few years previously.


Cordelia Moore was tried for the crime; her husband, John, was arrested but released.

I have been unable to determine that outcome of any trial in Merl's death.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1930s.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


Sources:

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