“Removes All Obstacles”: The Place of Abortifacients in Nineteenth-Century Toronto

Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) Conference 2014
Johanna Kelly (ASI), Andrea Carnevale (ASI), Denise McGuire (Newcastle University)

A bottle embossed with ‘Sir J. Clarke’s Female Pills’ was found during the excavation of the original
location of Toronto’s first hospital, which opened in 1829 and was in operation at the corner of King and John Streets until 1854. Abortion was a frowned-upon and covert practice that was actively prosecuted. The discovery of a bottle of ‘female pills’ is an example of the types of abortive medicines which were widely accessible to those who could not afford a procedure with an abortionist. Where do these abortive medicines fit into the larger framework of reproductive health operating within the social, political, and cultural frameworks of nineteenth-century Toronto?