52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: At The Courthouse

Mrs. Palmer had committed a crime. Mrs. Palmer had committed a murder. Mrs. Palmer had committed a filicide, the murder of her own child. That fact was written on her child’s death certificate,”poisoned by tincture of iodine given by insane mother”. No autopsy was performed. The year was 1923. So what would be the consequences for this Mrs. Palmer?

In the early 1920s, tincture of iodine was given as a medicine to cure every ailment. It had been used as such for well over a century. Medical scientists could not totally explain why it was so successful as a cure. Pharmacists would formulate it for each prescription and include directions for dosing. So what would be the consequences for misusing the medicine?

Was Mrs. Palmer questioned by the police? Did she see the inside of a courtroom to explain…to answer questions at an inquest? Was she ever brought to trial? Was she ever called to the courthouse to tell her side of this tragedy? So what were the consequences for her insane actions?

Perhaps, she was tried and convicted of a homicide by a jury of her peers, the people of her town. Perhaps, her fellow town dwellers mentally sentenced her to a lifetime of shunning. What kind of person would kill her own child could have been an everlasting question and opinion in their minds. Guilty as charged!

By 1930 as the U.S. Federal Census states, she was divorced and living with her parents. Her second child lived with them, and this child had been a mere three months old when her sibling passed. Was the divorce part of her unspoken sentence?

To date, I have not able to find criminal and possible trial records for this case. Also of interest to me is that the physician who signed the death certificate deemed Mrs. Palmer insane. Was treatment, albeit 1920s style, given for that?

After this event, Mrs. Palmer would live another 50+ years. What truly was her life sentence…delivered from a courthouse or delivered from her soul?

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