Nine Stories Nine Women -6- Bertha Jane Jones
In keeping with the theme of Queensland Women’s Week 2019 – Invest in Women, Invest in the future. Talking about financial insecurity and literacy. The stories of the women of Boggo Road Gaol directly represent what goes wrong when women are faced with financial insecurity and other difficult circumstances.
This year, in honour of these women we have produced Nine Stories Nine Women a series of short stories representative of the different circumstances that women found themselves in. Bertha Jane Jones is the sixth of our nine stories.
Native Place: England
Year of Birth: 1865
Trade or Calling: Nurse
Religion: Church of England
Education: R & W
Height: 5 feet
Weight: 7 Stone 10 ounces
Features: Mole under left nostril; Scar on bottom lip; 3 vaccination marks on left bicep.
Bertha Jane Jones, a 68-year-old nurse, was caught up tragically assisting an unmarried mother to end her pregnancy. This is a time in which contraception for women was non-existent, women often made the difficult decision to end their pregnancy. There were a few shonky pills and medicines being developed but overwhelmingly women turned to experienced midwives, nurses and even mothers. Bertha Jane Jones was one of these nurses. Unfortunately, the young woman died….and four people would serve a sentence for her death….
Born Bertha Jane Lloyd, she met and married a young dispenser and moved to Queensland to make their way in the world. Bertha and her husband both having served in the Royal Medical Corps in the Boer War their medical experience would serve them well. George Jones would go overseas again in the First World War. During this time, Bertha would be alone in raising their daughter.
George would return home safely, however unable to return to his previous position he would take a job as a clerk. The family would move to Wynnum eventually taking up a farmstead lease.
Bertha was a renowned midwife. However, she also had been tasked with the position of performing procedures to abort unwanted pregnancies. This is a time in which contraception for women was non-existent, women turned to experienced midwives, nurses and even mothers to help them in their condition. Unfortunately, all too commonly the procedure went terribly wrong. Either from catastrophic bleeding or terrible infection, Women died. It was this exact case, that Bertha would spend her time in Boggo Road Gaol.
In August, 1929 a murder charge was preferred against Bertha in the death of Mrs May Ellen Hall. Bertha had aided in terminating a pregnancy for Mrs Hall, allegedly unbeknownst to her husband.
May Hall died in the Brisbane General Hospital of Septicaemia ten days after the procedure. In an extraordinary move the court ordered that Mrs Hall would give evidence on her death bed with her not expecting to survive. Bertha was held in custody for the Murder of May Hall.
The court case would take months. Eventually however, Bertha was found not guilty for the Murder with the controversial decision not to allow the evidence provided by May Hall. (now deceased) It was argued about the timing and the recording of the evidence.
However, it was not over with yet. Bertha would again be taken into custody and the matter brought before the Supreme Court under appeal. Finally, in February 1930 an announcement of No True Bill in the case against her was found. In other words, the prosecution had no further evidence and the case could not be proved.
Some would say she literally got away with murder, it has to be remembered that these procedures were often seen as the only option by desperate women. Also, that more often than not they were performed in unsterile environments and often in the woman’s home.
Eerily, in August 1932; Bertha found herself again in trouble. Charged with conspiracy to bring about a certain event. More precisely to abort the pregnancy of Betty Ogle. Unfortunately, Betty Ogle too had died. However, this time Bertha had company in court, with three others being charged for the same offence.
Betty Ogle had died from catastrophic bleeding. Bertha had warned that she could not be moved and that a doctor should be sent for. Sadly, her brother tried to move her and by the time a doctor could be arranged poor Betty was dead.
Betty had gone to Nurse Jones for assistance with a pregnancy to a young man named Robert Brodie. Robert, his brother Jack and Jack’s wife Eileen were the co-accused in the case.
All four were accused of the unlawful killing of Betty Ogle, but the charge was reduced to conspiracy as we mentioned earlier.
After a lengthy and sometimes emotive trial all four accused were convicted and sentenced to two years with hard labour at Boggo Road Gaol.
Jack and Eileen Brodie had only been married five months and were to be released after six months with hard labour on the condition that they be of good behaviour for 18 months and pay a bond of £100.
Bertha who was ill collapsed in the dock when she was sentenced. She sobbed bitterly as she was carried down the steps to the cells. Bertha served her time and was released from Boggo Road Gaol on the 11th of January 1934 a broken woman. She returned to her husband at their home at Wynnum. When the farm got too much for them, they took to a home called “The Cottage” in Mitchelton. It was here that Bertha died five years later.
Come and get locked up in Boggo Road Gaol for Queensland Women’s Week! Experience what life was like for the women from the earliest times of the female division in our fully immersive tour experience Join us for a History Tour on the 6th or 8th of March to be a part of our very special Queensland Women’s Week events.
Tickets for Queensland Women’s Week are strictly limited so get in quickly to secure your spot. You do not want to miss this! Click here to book now!