Tuesday, June 28, 2022

June 28, 1946: Immigrant Dies at Harlem Hospital

According to the New York Index of Death Certificates, 17-year-old Alvena Clarke, a student, died at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan on June 28, 1946. Alvena, an immigrant from Jamaica, suffered a perforated uterus during an abortion and subsequently died of septicemia.

I've been unable to find newspaper coverage of Alvena's death. This might be because she was a young Black woman so her death was not considered important enough to cover in the newspaper. It might be because her abortion was performed legally due to some health problem she had. The fact that the abortion was not identified as criminal in the death records underscores this possibility.

Watch "Scant Information on 1946 Abortion Death" on YouTube.

June 28, 1900: Midwife or Nurse in Chicago

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, on June 28, 1900, a woman only identified as "Mrs. Andre Jorgenson" died on the scene from an illegal abortion.

Mrs. Anna Pihlgren, whose occupation is listed as nurse or midwife, was arrested and held by the Coroner's Jury. A man identified as Andre Pihlgren in the source, but who was probably the dead woman's husband, was held as an accessory.

Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

June 27, 1934: Boon to Young Men, Death to Young Women

A bald, middle-aged white man wearing round, black-rimmed eyeglasses
Dr. Guy Brewer

Dr. Guy E. Brewer, at age 55, was a philanthropist and leading citizen in Graber, Oklahoma. 

Brewer was a quiet, small-town doctor, immensely popular for his benevolence in putting local young men through college. He even provided a home for them to live in.

Hermione Fowler, a 20-year-old coed studying science and literature at the Oklahoma A&M University, died at her Red Oak, Oklahoma home on June 27, 1934, nine days after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Brewer. 

Hermione was one of six women to die after abortions perpetrated by Brewer.

The first charge filed against Brewer was for the death of Mrs. Doris Jones, a 20-year-old mother of two, who had died on April 11, 1935. Ruby Ford had died on April 1, 1934, prior even to Hermione's death. Wanda Lee Gray, age 20, Myrtle Rose, age 21, and Elizabeth Shaw, age 23, evidently died in early June of 1935.

Hermione Fowler
Brewer entered guilty pleas and sentenced to six concurrent four-year sentences. 

So beloved was Brewer that one victim's husband was fired from his job in retaliation for reporting Brewer to the police.

Brewer died on July 13, 1952, with his crimes evidently forgotten by everyone except his victims' families. His headstone reads "Dedicated by Doc's Boys."

Watch "Boon to Young Men, Death to Young Women" on YouTube.

Source:


Sunday, June 26, 2022

June 26, 1888: Death at a Maternity Hospital

On June 26, 1888, 16-year-old Annie Dorris died at Dr. Lucy Hagenow's "maternity hospital" in San Francisco. She was buried the following day based on a death certificate filed by Dr. Xavier Dodel, who claimed that he'd been called to tend to her at her home for chills and fever and had transferred her to Hagenow's care about two days before her death, when his treatment was not successful. “A autopsy held on the remains which were disinterred for the purpose, showed that death was the result of an abortion.”

Augusta had read in a German newspaper that “Mrs. Hagenow's hospital on Twelfth street was a good place,” so she took Annie there. “Mrs. Hagenow said that she would cure the girl for $30 and took her into a private room to examine her.” After Annie emerged, Hagenow charged her mother an additional $10, saying that she had damaged an instrument due to Anna's inability to lie still.

Three days later, Annie took to her bed, complaining of pains in her legs and back. According to Annie's father, Frederick, Hagenow came to the house to check on Annie. Hagenow took the girl into a side room, from which Frederick heard Annie cry out. Hagenow emerged and said that a "man doctor" had to be called in due to inflammation of the bowels and high fever. Hagenow left and returned with Dr. Xavier Dodel. The two of them went into the room with Annie, and again Frederick heard his daughter cry out. Dodel emerged from the room with bloody hands.

Upon his recommendation, Annie was removed to the "Maternity Home," where she died on the third day.

Augusta said that Hagenow's sister, Mrs. Seibert, told her that she'd taken her daughter to a “hell hole” and that “other persons had been murdered there.” Anna Hickert, who operated a bakery, said that she relayed to Hagenow that Seibert had told her that Hagenow ran “a murderous den,” but Hagenow had told Hickert not to relay this because her sister would deny having ever said any such thing.

As Augusta testified about her daughter's death, she “cried pitifully.” After being given time to regain her composure, Augusta, with her husband by her side, was asked about her encounter with Hagenow at the coroner's office. Augusta said that Hagenow told her to denied ever meeting her, or she (Hagenow) would end up doing 25 or 30 years at San Quentin. The coroner had chased Hagenow from the room.

Hagenow eventually made bail, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “The bond itself is a queer one. Although the signers qualify in the aggregate for $20,000 there is more than the faint suspicion afloat that it is a bond of straw.” Pretty fishy – perhaps in one case even fictitious – characters were putting their signatures on it. “When Mrs. Hagenow was released she ran to Dr. Dodel's cell and held a short conversation with him. It is quite probable that he will soon be out on bond if [Judge] Hornblower can be persuaded to accept the same kind of sureties for him as he did for his female companion." Hagenow stuck to her story that Annie had been deathly ill before she'd even been called in.

Three trials in the case led to three hung juries.

Hagenow was also implicated in the San Francisco abortion deaths of Louise Derchow and Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home.

Hagenow relocated to Chicago and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including:

1892: Sophia Kuhn and Emily Anderson

1896: Hannah Carlson

1899: Marie Hecht

1905: May Putnam

1906: Lola Madison

1907: Annie Horvatich

1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, and Elizabeth Welter

1926: Mary Moorehead

The first death is one of a large batch that blew away my presumption that illegal abortionists would be quickly identified and shut down if they injured or killed women. Dr. Lucy Hagenow accumulated a shameful number of dead patients while spending very little time even in trouble, much less in prison, considering the toll her practice was taking.

Mrs. Dr. Hagenow

“Mrs. Dr. Hagenow, a former resident of San Jose, who gained unenviable notoriety in connection with the death of Louise Derchow in San Francisco about a year ago, is again in similar trouble.” 

On June 26, 1888, 16-year-old Annie Dorris died at Dr. Lucy Hagenow's "maternity hospital" in San Francisco. She was buried the following day based on a death certificate filed by Dr. Xavier Dodel, who claimed that he'd been called to tend to her at her home for chills and fever and had transferred her to Hagenow's care about two days before her death, when his treatment was not successful.

The baby's father was a young man named Cox who drowned in the San Francisco Bay the Christmas after Annie's death.

“A autopsy held on the remains which were disinterred for the purpose, showed that death was the result of an abortion.”

During the coroner's inquest, Annie's mother, Augusta, testified that in late July, Annie had come to her, "Troubled with what she thought was some female disease."  Augusta read in a German newspaper that “Mrs. Hagenow's hospital on Twelfth street was a good place,” so she took Annie there. “Mrs. Hagenow said that she would cure the girl for $30 and took her into a private room to examine her.” After Annie emerged, Hagenow charged her mother an additional $10, saying that she had damaged an instrument due to Anna's inability to lie still.

Three days later, Annie took to her bed, complaining of pains in her legs and back. According to Annie's father, Frederick, Hagenow came to the house to check on Annie. Hagenow took the girl into a side room, from which Frederick heard Annie cry out. Hagenow emerged and said that a "man doctor" had to be called in due to inflammation of the bowels and high fever. Hagenow left and returned with Dodel. The two of them went into the room with Annie, and again Frederick heard his daughter cry out. Dodel emerged from the room with bloody hands. Upon his recommendation, Annie was removed to the "Maternity Home," where she died on the third day.

Augusta said that Hagenow's sister, Mrs. Seibert, told her that she'd taken her daughter to a “hell hole” and that “other persons had been murdered there.” Anna Hickert, who operated a bakery, said that she relayed to Hagenow that Seibert had told her that Hagenow ran “a murderous den,” but Hagenow had told Hickert not to relay this because her sister would deny having ever said any such thing.

As Augusta testified about her daughter's death, she “cried pitifully.” After being given time to regain her composure, Augusta, with her husband by her side, was asked about her encounter with Hagenow at the coroner's office. Augusta said that Hagenow told her to denied ever meeting her, or she (Hagenow) would end up doing 25 or 30 years at San Quentin. The coroner had chased Hagenow from the room.

Dr. Lucy Hagenow

Hagenow eventually made bail, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “The bond itself is a queer one. Although the signers qualify in the aggregate for $20,000 there is more than the faint suspicion afloat that it is a bond of straw.” Pretty fishy – perhaps in one case even fictitious – characters were putting their signatures on it. “When Mrs. Hagenow was released she ran to Dr. Dodel's cell and held a short conversation with him. It is quite probable that he will soon be out on bond if [Judge] Hornblower can be persuaded to accept the same kind of sureties for him as he did for his female companion." Hagenow stuck to her story that Annie had been deathly ill before she'd even been called in.

Three trials in the case led to three hung juries.

Hagenow was also implicated in the San Francisco abortion deaths of  Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home.

Hagenow relocated to Chicago, a city more tolerant of abortion quackery, and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths there, including:

1892: Sophia Kuhn and Emily Anderson

1896: Hannah Carlson

1899: Marie Hecht

1905: May Putnam

1906: Lola Madison

1907: Annie Horvatich (Hagenow was sentenced to prison for Annie's death, then released in 1924.)

1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, and Elizabeth Welter

1926: Mary Moorehead

Though she was sentenced to prison for the death of Mary Moorehead, when Hagenow appealed the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered a new trial in 1929. The judge, noting that there was no new evidence, dismissed the case, telling Hagenow, "You had better make your peace with God, Lucy Hagenow. I do not think your months on earth are many."

Hagenow, the Associated Press noted, was nearly deaf and "may not have heard. She muttered something, and shambled laboriously from the room."

As near as I can determine, Hagenow died September 26, 1933, in Norwood Park, Cook County, Illinois. Her occupation on her death record was given as "midwife."

Deaths of her patients must have been a common occurrence, since undertaker W. J. Freckleton, sent by one husband to collect the body of his wife for burial, testified that he had complained to Hagenow how difficult it was to get the body down the narrow staircase; Hagenow had replied that her usual undertaker never had any trouble getting bodies out.

Clearly, laws against abortion can only protect women if the local authorities care enough to enforce them. 

June 26, 1994: Bleeding Out by the Side of the Road

Pamela Jean Colson, age 31, was 12 weeks pregnant when friends drive her to Women's Medical Services in Pensacola, Florida, for a safe and legal abortion on Saturday, June 25, 1994. The abortion was performed by Dr. William Philip Keene.

Pamela bled heavily during the drive home. According to her friends, Pamela began having trouble breathing when they were about halfway home to Port St. Joe. She became unresponsive at around 7:30 p.m., so they pulled into the parking lot of Scottish Inn in Panama City. The hotel's manager said that two passers-by did CPR while Pamela's friends called for an ambulance. Somebody else attempted to wave down traffic to seek additional help.

When medics arrived they found Pamela in full cardiac and respiratory arrest. They took over her care and transported her to Bay Medical Center. Surgeons there performed an emergency hysterectomy in a vain attempt to save Pamela's life. She died shortly after midnight the following day.

Her autopsy showed: bloodstained fluid in chest and peritoneal space, and "extensive hematoma formation in the pelvic area with the peritoneum denuded from the left gutter area caudually." The surgeon who performed an emergency hysterectomy, trying to save Pamela's life, had removed her uterus at the site of the laceration "so that the laceration was a portion of the incision made to remove the uterus." Her uterus showed extensive hemorrhage and blood clots. Her uterine artery was also injured. Several of Pamela's ribs were fractured, apparently during attempts to resuscitate her; this is common in even properly performed CPR.

The cause of death was given as "irreversible shock from blood loss due to a perforated uterus occurring at the time of an elective abortion." William Keene was tentatively identified as having performed the abortion.

Pamela's fatal abortion was performed at the clinic where abortionist David Gun was shot dead.

After the investigation into Pamela's death, Keene was fired from Sarasota Women's Health Center, the other Florida clinic where he worked. The director of Women's Medical Service, where Pamela's fatal abortion was performed, on the other hand, pooh-poohed the idea of dismissing Keene. "Of course he's allowed to perform abortions. That's a ridiculous question. Complications occur all the time," clinic director Sandy Sheldon told the Tuscaloosa News. She insisted that Pamela had seemed fine, talking and eating, before being discharged from the clinic.

She also showed disdain for the press for covering Pamela's death, telling the Tampa Bay Times, "Patients die all the time, whether it's a gall bladder operation or a hernia or a tonsillectomy, and nobody cares. It's not front-page news. ..... Why is this different? We did everything we were supposed to do." It was evidently lost on her that even the notoriously abortion-friendly Centers for Disease Control long since stated that there was never any legitimate reason for an abortion patient to bleed to death. ("Fatal hemorrhage from legal abortion in the United States," Surgical Gynecology and Obstetrics, November, 1983) David Grimes, et. al., clearly said:

Deaths from hemorrhage associated with legal induced abortion should not occur. Yet hemorrhage was the third most frequent cause of death from legal abortion in the United States between 1972 and 1979.  .... Twenty-four women died from hemorrhage after legal abortion in the United States from 1972 to 1979.... Deaths from hemorrhage can be eliminated by preventing uterine trauma during abortion and by rapidly diagnosing and treating hemorrhage if it occurs.

Pamela's family didn't find out about her death until the following Tuesday because they were traveling at the time. Pamela's parents sued the clinic on behalf of themselves and Pamela's two motherless young children, but the case was dismissed because of the plaintiff attorney's failure to submit an investigation in a timely manner.

Watch "No Excuse But Plenty of Excuses" on YouTube.

Sources:

Saturday, June 25, 2022

June 25, 1911: Doctor Free to Kill Again

On June 25, 1911, 20-year-old Mrs. Anna Mueller died from a criminal abortion performed by Dr. George Lotz. Lotz was arrested July 5. He was indicted for felony murder.

Leslie Reagan, in her book "When Abortion Was a Crime," indicates that he was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society after admitting guilt in Anna's death, but there is no record that he served time for the crime. In fact, he was free and in Danville, Illinois in 1917, when he perpetrated a fatal attempted abortion on Matilda Tidrick.

Anna's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Watch "Another Doctor Free to Kill Again" on YouTube.

Source: Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database

Friday, June 24, 2022

June 24, 1971: First Legal Abortion Death in Rockland County New York

Edith Clark traveled from her home in Newark, New Jersey to the Sparkhill, New York office of Dr. Robert Livingston to avail herself of the new law, for a first-trimester abortion on June 24, 1971.

Shortly after she was given an injection of Innovar for anesthesia, Edith went into cardiac arrest, and attempts to revive her failed. She left behind three children.

Edith was the first woman to die in New York's Rockland County from a newly legalized abortion. The second, 18-year-old Pamela Modugno, died in May of 1972 after an abortion in one of the many freestanding abortion facilities that opened immediately after New York decided to permit outpatient abortion-on-demand up to 24 weeks.

June 24, 1929: Two Doctors Arrested

On June 24, 1929, 19-year-old homemaker Winifred Mary Garver of South Bend, Indiana, underwent an abortion at the Chicago office of Dr. Anna Schultz, aka Rollins. Schultz was assisted by Dr. James White. Winifred died on June 27 at Chicago's Woodlawn Hospital. Winifred was white; both her abortionist and the assistant were Black. 

On June 27, both physicians were held by the coroner. Schultz was indicted for felony murder by a grand jury on October 6, 1930 and released on $10,000 bond. White was released on $5,000 bond. I've been unable to determine the outcome of the case.

Source: "Two Physicians Held," Palladium Item, June 27, 1929

June 24, 1882: Incest and Abortion in Michigan

On June 10, 1882, a wealthy 62-year-old farmer named James T. Phillips brought his daughter, 20-year-old Ruth Phillips, from their home to another farm near DeSoto, Wisconsin, where his two older daughters lived.

Ruth took violently ill. On June 13, she delivered stillborn twins. 

A few days later she made a shocking deathbed statement to her sisters: she said that their father was the father of the twins, and that he had used instruments on her to cause the abortion that killed the twins and was soon to take her own life.

Ruth died on June 24, and was buried on the 26th. 

"After the death and burial," says the July 26, 1882 Vernon County Censor, "suspicion of foul play having been around in the neighborhood, Phillips was arrested, the body disinterred, and a post mortem examination had by Dr. Gott."

The autopsy showed that Ruth had died from uterine inflammation, though there were no marks of instrumentation that the doctor could find.

Phillips. a native of Wales, was arrested and jailed pending $1,400 bail (a little over $11,000 in 2022).  "There is much excitement in the community where Phillips lives, and open threats of lynching in case he secures bail."

"The crimes is the most terrible one that can be conceived, and if Phillips is proven guilty, no punishment that the law provides for such offenses can prove adequate."

Phillips had been tried fifteen years earlier for committing incest against another of his daughters, but was acquitted in that case.

Lynching turned out to be unnecessary. Phillips hanged himself in his jail cell on August 5, 1882. This leads me to believe that the abortion had really taken place, since a mere incest case hadn't been enough to lead him to suicide 15 years or so earlier.

Watch "Jailhouse Suicide" on YouTube.

Sources:






Thursday, June 23, 2022

June 23, 1899: Widow Dies After Doctor Does Abortion

Cora A. Burke, age 20, lived with her mother and 4-year-old son and her parents in Idaho. She'd been widowed about five months and had recently become engaged to marry.

Dr. R. J. Alcorn
In May of 1899, Cora told Mrs. Martha Johnson that she was about six weeks pregnant and wanted to find a good doctor to perform an abortion. Mrs. Johnson introduced Cora to Dr. Robert J. "R. J." Alcorn who had been practicing medicine in Kootenai County, Idaho, for a short time. Dr. Alcorn was living in the boarding house Mrs. Johnson operated with Mr. E.J. Abbey.

Cora went to Dr. Alcorn's room about two days after they were introduced. Mr. Abbey listened from an adjoining room, and heard Cora say that the instrument Dr. Alcorn was using was hurting her.

On the night of Tuesday, June 21, Dr. Alcorn asked Mr. T.J. Rundell to help him carry a table into his office, which was at the back of a drug store in the town of Harrison. Rundell's curiosity was piqued, and he asked Alcorn if he was going to "dissect a stiff." Alcorn told him no, he was going to perform an operation on somebody from across the river.

Rundell decided to snoop, so he returned at 10:00 PM and saw Cora go through the drug store into Alcorn's office. Rundell then slipped around to the back of the building, where he could peer into Alcorn's office around an ill-hung window blind. The following is what Rundell says he observed.

Alcorn stood beside the chair where Cora was sitting, supporting her head with one hand. He had a small vial containing a dark liquid, and was holding a cloth to Cora's face. Cora seemed to fall into a deep sleep, whereupon Alcorn picked her up and lay her on the table.

Alcorn removed Cora's undergarments and positioned her for the surgery. He examined her internally, inserted a speculum, then inserted a probe about a foot long into her body, causing a flow of blood which he blotted up with a cloth. From time to time, Alcorn applied the cloth to Cora's face again. The entire procedure took about an hour and a half.

Cora was awakened, and Alcorn helped her to set her clothing to rights and sent her on her way.

At about 4 PM the next day, Alcorn was called to tend to Cora, who was in a lot of pain. He examined her and found her uterus to be inflamed and bleeding. He prescribed ergot, to be given one-half teaspoon each half-hour for three doses, then every hour afterward for 18 hours. Cora's mother asked Alcorn about her daughter's condition. Alcorn told her, "She caught a bad cold. She does not flow enough when she has her monthlies. I will give her something to make her flow."

At about 6:00 PM on the 21st, William Ketchum called Alcorn to visit Mrs. Ketchum, but Alcorn told him, "Well, I don't know. I am expecting a miscarriage here any minute. I can go over there, and come back, if it does not make any difference to them." So he went to Ketchum's home to attend to his wife.

Over the ensuing days, Alcorn visited Cora five times, the last time about two hours before she died on Friday afternoon, June 23. Her feet and hands were cold, her fingers blue, her lips purple. Alcorn told Cora's mother that she was doing well and would be up soon. Alcorn immediately took a train to Washington state, returning about 10:00 on the following Sunday morning. The next day he again left the state, this time going to Montana, where he was arrested and returned to Kootenai county.

While Cora had been ill, she passed a lot of blood and clots. Mrs. Knight, who visited Cora during her illness, testified, "I helped dress her after she was dead. Her clothing and bedclothing were saturated with blood. A quilt was doubled up under her four thicknesses, and it was clear through the quilt. It was clots of blood. I observed an odor in connection with it. There was too great a quantity to have come from the ordinary menstruation. Much greater in quantity."

Kootenai County Sherriff F. H. Bradbury testified about the conversation he'd had with Alcorn on the train bringing him back to face justice. "He told me that he never had anything to do with this girl, Cora Burke; that he began in the daytime an operation on a man for stricture, and did not complete it; and that he took him in the back room of the drug store and completed the operation in the evening. He gave me this statement after I had warned him not to make any statement to me."

Alcorn testified on is own behalf, saying that Cora had attempted to do an abortion on herself with "a hair dart," which had punctured the wall of her uterus and broken off, leaving about 1 1/2 inches. Alcorn said that he'd used a speculum and piston syringe to remove the foreign body from Cora's uterus.

The physicians called as expert witnesses on the case all agreed that Cora died of septicemia or blood poisoning. They also agreed that ergot itself would be enough to cause an abortion.

Alcorn's defense also raised the possibility that Cora hadn't actually been pregnant, but the court concluded that Cora had believed herself to be pregnant, had sought an abortion, and had undergone a procedure intended to cause an abortion, which was enough to demonstrate the intent of the defendant to kill a fetus, especially in the light of Alcorn's statement that he was expecting a patient to miscarry.

Alcorn was charged with murder. His first trial ended with a hung jury. The second jury found him guilty of manslaughter. The judge sentenced Alcorn to seven years in the penitentiary. Alcorn appealed, partially on the grounds that since the indictment did not specifically say that the abortion took place in 1899, the injury was not proven to have taken place less than a year and a day prior to the death.

Watch "Shouldn't 'All Surgery Have Risks' Apply?" at YouTube.

Sources: 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

June 22, 1951: Fatal Abortion Blamed on Nurse

 At 11:45 am on June 22, 1951, 18-year-old Minnie Bell Stewart was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbia Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. Minnie had worked as a domestic servant.

Her cause of death was determined to be generalized peritonitis due to a criminal abortion. It was ruled a homicide.

A practical nurse was held by police in the case.

Both Minnie and the nurse were Black women.

Watch "Was Scant Reporting Due to Race?" on YouTube.

Sources: