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Tue Dec 22, 2015, 01:32 PM

The Death of Jacqueline Smith

On Christmas Eve 1955, Jacqueline Smith died from an illegal abortion at the apartment of her boyfriend, Thomas G. Daniel.

Jacqueline Smith was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1935. She graduated from high school in 1953 and moved to New York City, where she intended to become a fashion designer. In June 1955, Smith began to date Daniel, a sales trainee in a riding equipment shop. Although Smith spent most nights in Danielís apartment, the stigma surrounding cohabiting and having premarital sex was so great that she kept an apartment with three other women in order to maintain appearances. (Unless otherwise noted, primary source information in this piece is based either on contemporary newspaper accounts or on district attorney files and transcripts from the 1956 trials of Daniel and Leobaldo Pijuan; these records can be found in the New York City Municipal Archives.)

In November 1955, Smith discovered she was about six weeks pregnant. When she shared the news of her pregnancy with Daniel, she hoped that he would marry her. At that time, unmarried pregnant women faced harsh consequences for their sexual activity, including job loss and stigmatization. Unwed mothers, pilloried and pathologized, faced limited prospects for marriage, and their children had the word illegitimate stamped on their birth certificates. Many young women went to maternity homes in other towns, where they would have their babies and then give them up in closed adoptions, all done in secrecy. Upon returning home, these women were expected to pretend that the pregnancies never happened and to make the most out of a second chance at respectability.

Daniel did not want to marry Smith and began looking for a means to terminate her pregnancy. Over the next month, he asked colleagues and friends if they knew how to cause a miscarriage. Daniel persuaded Smith to take abortifacient pills, but these did not work. In the meantime, Smith went to her OB-GYN twice for examinations, made plans for future checkups, and made arrangements to deliver the baby.

On Christmas Eve 1955, Daniel paid Pijuan, a hospital attendant, $50 to perform an illegal abortion. Legal abortions, done at hospitals, required approval from a committee of doctors, which acted as deterrents for women seeking elective abortion. Hospitals usually authorized abortions in rare cases when a pregnancy endangered the health of the woman. Those unable to obtain hospital abortions would turn to underground abortionists, some of whom were skilled and some of whose lack of medical training physically endangered women. Pijuan was one of the latter.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/12/jacqueline_smith_s_1955_death_and_the_lessons_we_haven_t_yet_learned_from.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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Wed Dec 30, 2015, 01:46 PM

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