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Kimberly Powell

Saved by her Corset! The Interesting Case of Dora Bowman

By January 10, 2012

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From the Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee, 20 August 1890, page 5, col. 1Even though I had no idea what I wanted for Christmas, my husband managed to find a way straight to my heart by giving me several old albums and diaries that he had located and purchased through antique dealers and eBay. A yellowed newspaper clipping tucked behind the photograph of a woman identified as Dora Bowman immediately caught my eye. She's the only named photograph in an album filled with gorgeous old photos, which seems a bit too coincidental to me, but her story is definitely captivating...

"Oh! Dan, don't kill me and I will be yours." It was a woman imploring for mercy. Over her stood a man with a cocked revolver. "D___ you, I will kill you," and with that he fired, but fortunately the ball struck the woman's corset steel and fell to the ground. Twice more the villian fired, but the bullets went wide of their mark.

Dramatic it may seem, but this is the true tale of an engineer named William Schipp, and the much younger Dora Bowman set in 1890 Omaha, Nebraska. Dora apparently lived with William in adultery for almost two years after he solicited her away from "May Morgan's sporting house," before she tired of his attentions and tried to break off their arrangement. According to this and other articles appearing in local Omaha, Nebraska, newspapers, William Schipp didn't take kindly to being "thrown over" by the young Miss Bowman after he had spent quite a bit of money on her, and took his revenge by firing at her several times right out in the street outside of her sister's house. According to a newspaper report of the court proceedings against William Schipp she was indeed saved by her steel corset -- the "center steel in front was found indented and the cloth was torn from the steel for nearly three inches." Talk about a bulletproof vest! Apparently the court was also "much impressed with the knowledge of feminine apparel displayed by Sergeant Graves." William Schipp was found guilty in District Court of assault with intent to kill and sentenced to the penitentiary.

From the Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee, 28 December 1889, page 5, col. 1As interesting as this story is on its own, one of the newspaper reports of the Dora Bowman shooting hinted at yet another story involving Mr. William Schipp -- a wife and children that he had previously deserted and the tragedy that befell them. On the day after Christmas in 1889 a fire enveloped the home of Lena Schipp, separated wife of William Schipp, resulting in the deaths of all three of her children. As if that wasn't sad enough, more of the mother's unfortunate story appeared in the Omaha Daily Bee on 28 December 1889:

Mrs. Schipp stated to a BEE reporter that she came from Germany about eight years ago. She was married at Fremont seven years ago to Claus Frahm, but left him on account of extreme cruelty after two children had been born to them. Two years afterward Frahm was convicted of a crime and sent to the penitentiary, and she secured a divorce.

When she left him she went to the Home of the Friendless at Lincoln, where she stayed two and a half years. She afterwards found employment as a nurse, leaving one child at the home, and the other with friends in Fremont. Becoming lonely and desirous of seeing her children she took both of them and came to Omaha where she obtained employment as cook in a restaurant, and also did washing. In this way she accumulated enough money to start housekeeping at 1021 South Twentieth street. In a short time a man named William Schipp applied for room and board with her, and she took him into her house, hoping thereby to lessen her expenses. In a short time, he persuaded her to marry him and once more she was doomed to bitter disappointment. As soon as they were married, Schipp began a systematic course of cruelty. He beat her and the children shamefully until the neighbors were compelled to interfere. He pawned the furniture she had worked so hard to pay for and refused absolutely to work or assist in supporting the family. After they had been married about two months she left him, in February last...

The children -- Addie and Luther Frohm and Carrie G. Schipp were buried 28 December 1889 in Omaha's Forest Lawn Cemetery. Even more sadly, Lena Schipp was interred there too just two and a half years later on 25 August 1892, after committing suicide with an overdose of morphine.

From the Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee, 24 August 1892, page 5, col. 6

January 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm
(1) Tom Hendricks says:

Wow what a story–I guess that would make one grateful for the new year. The corset was a funny incident too..Your husband is creative and active in your genealogy quest! Bravo!

January 14, 2012 at 8:47 am
(2) Philly JoJo says:

When you think of how many women and babies actually died because of those things…. Amazing how it actually did some good.

February 5, 2012 at 3:24 am
(3) Jo Graham says:

A fascinating, if tragic, piece of research work. Well done, and enjoy your old albums :-)

February 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm
(4) Kim von Aspern-Parker says:

Wow! All I can say is WOW.

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