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Edith Greene Murder, 1926

Great cultural change occurred during the 1920s. Women had attained the right to vote in 1920, after a hundred-year suffrage battle. Emancipation was abrupt; with many changes happening quickly. Examples include women working for the first time, women attaining higher education, women smoking, and many fashion changes such as wearing pants or other "revealing" clothing.

Prosperity and cultural change in the Roaring '20s also caused great tragedy. Bathtub Gin, or home-brewed alcoholic beverages, could cause serious injuries such as blindness or even death. Sexual customs changed in the '20s, with increased sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. The following is a description of one great tragedy in Boston's history.

Edith Greene was a 19 year old unmarried pregnant woman. She was urged by her boyfriend to get an abortion. Abortion was illegal in Massachusetts in 1926. Her 21 year-old boyfriend found a doctor that would perform the operation. An infection set in, and Edith Greene died. To conceal the crime, the doctor cut up her body, packed it in bundles, and then dumped them in New Calvary Cemetery in Mattapan. The following is quoted from Boston Murders by Marjorie Carlton (1948):

"Who left the bundles in Calvary Cemetery? The bundles contained portions of the body of Edith Greene...her lover wanted no part of the coming offspring, and took her to Dr. Thomas E. Walsh. The operation was performed, but infection set in. The doctor did a neat job of carving, and a better job of packing the various segments of the body, especially the torso, in a box that contained his wife's new fur coat. Needless to say, the company's name was on the box. It seemed unlikely that the doctor figured the box would come home to roost. He was apprehended, and sentenced to six to seven years in prison. Edith's lover, held in bail for a while as an accessory, went free."

The July 16, 1926 New York Times described Edith Greene's murder: "Dr. Thomas E. Walsh and his wife, wanted on murder charges in the connection with the death of Edith Greene, were reported by the police tonight as ready to surrender. An earlier report that Dr. Walsh had given himself up proved unfounded, and the police said that arrangements for the surrender were canceled when the physician failed to keep an appointment with an inspector. ... With [the boyfriend] in custody, charged with being an accessory before and after the fact, the police concentrated upon finding another physician thought to have aided Walsh in operating and dismembering the body. Miss Greene was a 19-year-old State ward and a former employee of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital."

The second doctor implicated in the murder was arrested on July 19th, after fleeing to New York City.




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