Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Known Criminal Deaths, One Undetermined

Dr. Lucy "Louisa" Hagenow
Louise Derchow, age 23, is the first known victim of notorious criminal abortionist Dr. Lucy Hagenow (pictured). Henry Peckelhoff, a German barkeeper, testified that he and Louise, who sometimes used Peckelhoff's last name, had lived together for several months in the fall of 1887. On August 9, 1887 she told Peckelhoff that she was pregnant, and he told her to go to Dr. Hagenow's “maternity hospital” at 19 Twelfth Street in San Francisco to be examined. “She told him a few days before her death that she had met with a mishap there.” She died about 1 a.m. On Monday, August 27.  Peckelhoff went to the undertaker at about 2 a.m., saying that he needed a burial for his wife. The undertaker's assistant removed Louise's body at about 3 a.m., then went to get a death certificate from Hagenow. The Assistant Secretary of the Health Department refused to issue a burial permit with a death certificate signed by Hagenow because of her illegal practice. The undertaker's assistant and Hagenow went looking for Dr. F. F. DeDerky, who had also attended Louise, but couldn't find him, so Hagenow's assistant forged DeDerky's signature in order to get the health department to accept the death certificate and issue the burial permit, which was finally released at 3 p.m. The funeral was held at 4:00. Because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Louise's death, the City Physician performed an autopsy at the Odd Fellow's Cemetery on September 1 and found what was termed “conclusive evidence” of an abortion, with inflammation caused by an instrument.  Hagenow insisted that Louise had shown up at her door already seriously ill and bleeding heavily. While at the maternity home she was delivered of a four-month fetus Henry Peckelhoff testified that he had paid Hagenow $75 for the week Louise had spent at the maternity home, and Louise had seemed not to be suffering when he'd visited her. All told, Hagenow was tried three times in Louise's death, and acquitted in the third trial, just around the time she was being investigated in the abortion deaths of Annie Dorris and Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home. The third acquittal was largely attributed to the death of the state's star witness, a journalist who had originally broken the story. Hagenow relocated to Chicago and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including Minnie Deering, Sophia Kuhn , Emily Anderson, Hannah Carlson, Marie Hecht, May Putnam, Lola Madison, Annie Horvatich, Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary Moorehead.

On August 27, 1909, homemaker Anna Dennin, age 23, died in her Chicago home on Hamilton Avenue from an abortion. Dr. E. Mayeke held by the coroner's jury and indicted for felony murder. The source document doesn't indicate that the case went to trial.

Victoria Seronka, a 17-year-old homemaker, died on August 27, 1970 in transit by ambulance to Southwest General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.  Doctors said that she was 3 months pregnant, and an autopsy revealed signs of an attempted abortion. I have been unable to determine what sort of abortion attempt had been made, but since independent researchers determined that 90% or more of pre-legalization abortions were done by physicians, the most likely scenarios are that Victoria had either traveled out-of-state for a legal abortion or had found a physician to perform an illegal one closer to home. Of those two possibilities, I think that the first is more likely, since there are no further news reports about Victoria's death. Only a local, illegal abortion would have remained a police matter and thus have warranted press coverage.

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