Fearless Females: Tragic or Unexpected Death – Gwendolyn Kiley

March is National Woman’s History month.

I gained inspiration for this post from Lisa Alzo, of The Accidental Genealogist as well as from Among My Branches.  Thank you, both!

From her March 11th post:

Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

I am posting about my Grandfather’s sister – Gwendolyn Morgan Kiley.  She was named after her aunt, Gwendolyn Lloyd Humphreys.

Gwen was born on November 28, 1898, in Gardner, Grundy, Illinois, to William and Margaret (nee Lloyd) Morgan.  She was the fourth born and the third girl to the couple.

She married Harry Kiley around 1920.  I have yet to find a marriage certificate for the couple. Their daughter, Dorothy, was born on January 30, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois.


Now for the unexpected part:

It was August 24, 1923…

“Mrs. Gwendolen Kiley, 25 years old, 416 East 113th street, was killed last evening when she jumped from a Cottage Grove avenue car at 94th street just as it was struck by a Monon train due in Chicago at 9:10 o’clock.  The locomotive struck the rear end of the street car, which was partly wrecked.  Five passengers who remained in their seats were unhurt.  Mrs. Kiley was in the center of the car when she saw the train bearing down.  In her excitement to escape she leaped in front of the train.”[i]

Her death certificate states:

“The cause of death was as follows:

“From shock and injuries due to external violence caused by Monon RR Passenger train striking street car in which she was riding at 94th St & Cottage grove Ave”

Definitely an untimely death; she left a husband and little girl behind.


[i]  “Woman Leaps to Save Life, Killed By Train,” Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 25 August 1923, Section C, p.1.

[ii] “Kiley, Gwendolyn Morgan; Death Certificate No. 23326, August 24, 1923, State of Illinois, Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Chicago, Illinois.  Standard Certificate of Death.

About Our Lineage

I invite you to join me as I share my journey of successes, surprises, and of course, disappointments. All belong to my passion called Genealogy.
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12 Responses to Fearless Females: Tragic or Unexpected Death – Gwendolyn Kiley

  1. Laura Hedgecock says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re remembering her and telling her story.

    Laura Hedgecock

  2. mariannregan says:

    Oh my heavens, this is a terrible, terrible event. She was just trying to save her life. What is a Monon train and why was it anywhere near a streetcar? It’s more than ironic, and I am so sorry for her and also for those who were left behind.

    • Our Lineage says:

      The Monon train was also another name for the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway. It intersected where the streetcar came through. I am sure there are more accidents than just this one. It seems ridiculous to have the two routes intersect. I believe they eventually rerouted the streetcar – I’m still investigating that, but I think that is what happened.

  3. Wow, that’s crazy. My grandfather had a cousin who died in a roller coaster accident. I wish I knew more about the circumstances. Roberta was also young and left a husband and a small daughter behind.

    • Our Lineage says:

      Wow. That is also very tragic. I wish I was there – she must have been so terrified to jump and ultimately cause her own death. Very sad. Both Gwen and Roberta!

      Thanks for sharing (as always)!


  4. Pegleg Web Designs says:

    Wow! It’s amazing what you find out while checking into your family’s history. I now have goose bumps after reading that! Great post, Wendy and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

    • Our Lineage says:

      Yes, it was quite a tragic event. The family only said she was killed on a street car. I didn’t truly get a sense for what happened. Once I found the newspaper article and death certificate, I got a better picture of how crazy of an event this was! Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  5. What a truly sad story. I am trying to envision what happened, but it’s difficult. Did she jump over somebody else to get out?

    • Our Lineage says:

      From what I was told, she panicked and jumped out – right into the train. I think she may have jumped out the window to get out of the streetcar. It is possible that she pushed someone aside to get out. She had to be terrified to do that…what a horrible feeling!

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