Tuesday, April 14, 2015 Henrietta Riddell (1899-1932)

Henrietta Riddell was born on 5 June 1899 at 9 Clydebank Terrace in the town of Clydebank to Thomas and Margaret (Brownlee) Riddell. Her father was a coachman and she was their sixth child. When the 1901 census enumerated the family lived on 102 Glasgow Road in Clydebank and ten years later they lived at 27A Barnes Street in the same town. Henrietta was 12 years old and attended school.

She married Archibald McKechnie on 9 August 1918 at her home on 10 First Terrace in Radner Park according to the forms of the Established Church of Scotland. She was 20 years old, lived with her parents, and worked as a railway porter.

On 22 May 1932 Henrietta (Riddell) McKechnie died at Robroyston Hospital in Glasgow. The cause of death was post-abortal septicemia. She was 32 years old. I have found Henrietta's death a tragedy. Archibald and Henrietta had six children during the 14 years of their marriage, which meant she was pregnant for almost half her married life. What circumstances drove Henrietta to make such a difficult decision? When she made it, did her husband know? Or did she face that gut-wrenching decision alone?

In 1929, just three years before her death, the UK enacted the Infant Life Preservation Act. It was the first small step towards legalizing abortion. Was Henrietta's abortion legal yet something still went wrong? The act decriminalized abortions carried out solely to preserve the life of the mother. A court case in 1938 allowed for further considerations to be taken in to account. The next year more liberalizations were being considered when World War II intervened. Abortion has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales on a wide ground of reasons since the Abortion Act of 1967 was enacted.

1901 Scotland Census, 31/03/1901 Riddell, Thomas (Census 1901 501/00 017/00 014)
1901 Scotland Census, Parish: Old Kilpatrick; ED: 17; Page: 14; Line: 6; Roll: CSSCT1901_173
1911 Scotland Census, 02/04/1911 Riddell, Thomas (Census 1911 501/00 020/00 012)
Scotland, Statutory Registrations, 1855-2013, 1899 Riddell, Henrietta (Statutory Briths 501/00 0448)
Scotland, Statutory Registrations, 1855-2013, 1918 McKechnie, Archibald - Riddell, Henrietta (Statutory Marriages 501/00 0216)
Scotland, Statutory Registrations, 1855-2013, 1932 McKechnie, Henrietta (Statutory Deaths 644/05 0319)

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