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
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
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.