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Zilpha West, Criminal Abortion Death
Was Woodworth her benefactor, or the author of her ruin?
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Zilpha West died at the Stevens House in Rochester, Wisconsin from abortion complications. She had lived at Mr. Woodworth's home in Saint Charles, and "at one time got into trouble by criminal intimacy with his son."

Mr. Woodworth testified that "in consequence of the relation that had previously existed between Miss West and his son, he had felt under obligation to befriend her, and had promised to give her a third of the share of his property which would go to the son."

Both Mr. Woodworth and Zilpha had been staing at a hotel in Sparta, Wisconsin, for a week or two in the beginning of November, 1874. Mr. Woodworth saw her again on December 1, when he got a letter from her asking him to meet her at Winona.

Woodworth met her as she requested, and she informed him that she was pregnant "and persuaded him to help her". He aggreed at that time to the share of is son's property going to Zilpha, though he also said that his son wasn't responsible for the pregnancy and that Zilpha "refused to inform him who was the guilty man."

He said that he arranged board for her at the Simonds home, but that Zilpha did not go there directly as instructed. She never did move in, because she sickened and died. An autopsy showed that she had suffered a uterine perforation.

"The facts as developed by the testimony of the witnesses before the Coroner, raised so strong a presumption that Mr. Woodworth, instead of befriending Miss West on account of the conduct of his son, was himself the person with whom she had sustained an improper relation, and that he had been instrumental in bringing about the causes that led to her death, that a warrant was issued" for his arrest "on charge of suggesting, aiding, and assisting in the procuring of the abortion."

I have no information on overall maternal mortality, or abortion mortality, in the 19th century. I imagine it can't be too much different from maternal and abortion mortality at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.

For more on this era, see Abortion Deaths in the 19th Century.

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


Sources:
  • "The Death of Zilpha West", Winona Daily Republican, March 29, 1875; "An Abortion -- Woodworth Bound Over", Winona Daily Republican, April 5, 1875, from The Rochester Post

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