Monday, July 11, 2016

An Assortment of Chicago Deaths, and the Scandal of Armand Hammer's Father

Three Deaths in Early 20th Century Chicago

On July 11, 1904, Alma Swanson, 24-year-old wife of Morris Swanson, died at her Chicago home from an abortion performed there that day. Midwife Constance Marie Anderson was arrested and held by Coroner's Jury on July 15.

At six weeks pregnant, 24-year-old "Cathy", identified in the source document as "Mrs. W.," used a catheter on herself to perform an abortion. All seemed well for three weeks, but then she took sick. On July 7, 1909, three weeks after taking ill, Cathy was admitted to Cook County Hospital by a doctor who had diagnosed her as suffering from typhoid fever. Her pulse was 144, her respirations 42, and her temperature 104.8. The Widal test for typhoid came back negative. Cathy's blood culture showed streptococci instead. Her leucocyte count was 8,800. Cathy developed an abscess on her left forearm, and it too tested positive for streptococci. For reasons the source document does not make clear, the septicemia was attributed to the self-induced abortion. Doctors were unable to fight the infection, and Cathy died on July 11.

On July 11, 1920, 36-year-old homemaker Vincenza Romans died at Chicago's Columbus Hospital from septicemia after an abortion. A midwife named Marie Lendino was arrested, and was indicted on July 15, but the case never went to trial for reasons the source does not indicate.

The Scandal of the Atache's Wife

Marie Oganesoff, wife of the Russian Attache in Washington during WWI, died on July 11, 1919, from complications of a criminal abortion performed on July 5 by Dr. Julius Hammer, father of industrialist Armand Hammer. Hammer, a 1902 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, reported used instruments on her. She had been about one month pregnant.

Marie's maid testified that she'd accompanied her employer to Hammer's office on July 5, in perfectly good health, but that Marie had been pail and weak upon leaving, needing help to go downstairs and get into her car. Marie had told her driver to drive very slowly. The chauffeur corroborated this testimony. Upon their return home, the maid helped Marie to to bed, and noticed bright red spots of blood on her underwear.

The morning of July 5, Mr. Oganesoff spoke to his ailing wife, then called Hammer and reported that Marie was very ill and had a high fever. Hammer, he said, came that evening, peered in Marie's throat, and said "She had grippe and maybe flu." Mr. Oganesoff expressed great anxiety about his wife's condition, whereupon Hammer admitted that he had performed "a little operation", but that Marie was in no danger.

A few days later, when Hammer's efforts didn't seem to be helping, Mr. Oganesoff called another doctor on his own initiative. This doctor examined Marie and immediately got two nurses to help him.  This other doctor called Hammer, who insisted that Marie was suffering "grippe and influenza" for which he'd been treating her and requested that when the patient died, he himself should fill out the death certificate since he'd been the attending physician.

When Marie died, the doctor Oganesoff had called consulted with two other doctors, and all three agreed that she had died of peritonitis.

Hammer was placed on trial. The defense argued as well that Marie had suffered for years from a heart ailment that made pregnancy dangerous for her. Hammer indicated that Marie had absolutely insisted on coming to his office, that she'd come to him the previous July as well to be curetted after having aborted herself with a crochet hook, which, he said, was her usual method of bringing on late periods.

Some other doctors testified on Hammer's behalf. One said that he'd cared for Marie in July of 1917, and that she had a heart disease, and that she'd told him that a European doctor had told her she must not bear any more children.

But two other doctors who gave expert testimony -- called by the defense -- testified that the would not, as Hammer had done, perform an outpatient currettage unassisted on a patient clad in her street clothes. They'd have performed the procedure in her home or a hospital where she could be kept in bed for 24 hours afterward.

Dr. Hammer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 3 1/2 - 15 years.

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