|Dr. Charlotte Denman Lozier|
by Cat Clark
Dr. Charlotte Denman Lozier was just about 25 years old when she called for the arrest of a man who tried to procure an abortion — and caused enforcement of a law that had been but a dead letter. At the same time, Dr. Lozier offered help to the young woman in need, in the tradition of a true pro-life feminist.
Ironically, just a few months later she died of a hemorrhage while pregnant with her third child, who was born at seven months.
Lozier (1844-1870), “wife, mother, scholar, physician, and woman,” made a big impact in her short life.
According to an obituary in The Revolution by Parker Pilsbury, former co-editor with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charlotte Denman took charge of caring for the younger children of her family after her mother’s death when Charlotte was twelve. At fifteen, she graduated high school.
Desiring to study medicine, she became a student at the New York Medical College for Women, from which she graduated with distinction and where she was appointed a professor. While there, she successfully argued that the clinical privileges and benefits of Bellevue Hospital should be open to women medical students as well as men. Charlotte Denman also met her husband, Dr. Abraham Lozier, son of the college’s founder Dr. Clemence Lozier, during this time. They married in 1866.
Medicine and family were not Dr. Charlotte Lozier’s only concerns. Like Stanton, Anthony, Eleanor Kirk, and other early American feminists, she was a passionate defender of Hester Vaughan, a woman wrongly accused of infanticide. Through their efforts, Vaughan was exonerated. Dr. Lozier also served as the vice president of the National Working Women’s Association.
Among all her admirable qualities and accomplishments, however, one act stood out more than others on the pages of The Revolution. The original story appears under the title “Restellism Exposed”:
Dr. Charlotte Lozier… was applied to last week by a man pretending to be from South Carolina, by name, [Andrew] Moran, as he also pretended, to procure an abortion on a very pretty young girl [identified as Caroline Fuller] apparently about eighteen years old. The Dr. assured him that he had come to the wrong place for any such shameful, revolting, unnatural and unlawful purpose. She proffered to the young woman any assistance in her power to render, at the proper time, and cautioned and counseled her against the fearful act which she and her attendant (whom she called her cousin) proposed. The man becoming quite abusive, instead of appreciating and accepting the counsel in the spirit in which it was proffered, Dr. Lozier caused his arrest under the laws of New York for his inhuman proposition.
The Revolution then published extracts from articles in the New York World and Springfield Republican. The former clarified that “procuring of a miscarriage [is] a misdemeanor” despite “the frequency of the offence of ante-natal infanticide among the most respectable classes of society.” The latter agreed that the law “has long been practically a dead letter,” and added that Andrew Moran attempted to bribe Dr. Lozier, “offering to pay roundly [$1000] and shield Mrs. Lozier from any possible legal consequences” should Ms. Fuller die. Lozier refused the bribe. Against critics who claimed Lozier violated medical confidentiality, according to the World, “Dr. Lozier… insists that as the commission of crime is not one of the functions of the medical profession, a person who asks a physician to commit the crime of ante-natal infanticide can no more be considered his patient than one who asks him to poison his wife.” The Revolution editors closed the story with this wish:
May we not hope that the action of Mrs. Lozier in this case is an earnest of what may be the more general practice of physicians if called upon to commit this crime, when women have got a firmer foothold in the medical profession? Some bad women as well as bad men may possibly become doctors, who will do anything for money; but we are sure most women physicians will lend their influence and their aid to shield their sex from the foulest wrong committed against it. It will be a good thing for the community when more women like Mrs. Lozier belong to the profession.
It has been suggested that Dr. Lozier’s compassionate response to Caroline Fuller, when Lozier “proffered to the young woman any assistance in her power to render,” was strengthened by the fact that she was herself pregnant with her third child.
Tragedy struck a month later. Dr. Lozier was injured in an accident and began to hemorrhage. Her daughter Jessica was born prematurely, at just seven months, and Dr. Charlotte Lozier died soon after.
A few weeks later, Paulina Wright Davis, Stanton’s new co-editor at The Revolution, recalled:
[Dr. Lozier’s] recent action, prompt and decisive, against a high-handed crime cannot be too much commended. She chose to bear reproach and bitterness, rather than a stain upon her conscience…. Her real strength did not reveal itself in the brief [meeting] we had with her; it was not till she came out firmly to stay the prevalent sin of infanticide that we knew the woman in all her greatness.
Her sense of justice would not allow her to let the wrong-doer escape the penalty of the law, while at the same time she pitied and tenderly cared for the victim. We have been amazed to hear her denounced for this brave, noble act on the ground of professional privacy. It is said she had no right to expose the outrage of having one thousand dollars offered to her to commit murder.
The murder of the innocents goes on. Shame and crime after crime darken the history of our whole land. Hence it was fitting that a true woman should protest with all the energy of her soul against this woeful crime.
The spirit in which Dr. Charlotte Lozier “proffered to the young woman any assistance in her power to render” lives on in Feminists for Life’s mission to eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.
- Mary Krane Derr, Rachel MacNair, and Linda Naranjo-Huebl, ProLife Feminism Yesterday & Today: Expanded Second Edition (Xlibris, 2005)
- The Revolution (suffragist newspaper, New York, 1869-1870)