The Suitcase Murder

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On September 21, 1905, a suitcase floated to the water’s surface in Winthrop Harbor, a shallow six-foot deep man-made channel, about three miles north of Boston Harbor. Stuffed inside the seemingly innocuous case was the torso of a “young and beautifully formed woman” whose intestines and stomach had been removed, along with her extremities… and her head. The Boston Globe splashed the headline across its front page the next day, “Dismembered Body of Girl Found in Suitcase Floating on the Tide at Winthrop.” Below the larger than life letters, the true nature of the crime was printed, “Death Probably Due to Peritonitis after Unsuccessful Operation of a Criminal Nature.” There it was, a dismembered body was found floating in the harbor in an unassuming olive-green suitcase, but the real scandal was that the body had recently undergone an illegal operation – an abortion. An operation so common that everyone reading the paper that day knew exactly what the headline referred to, but a crime so sensationalized, no one could utter its name.