Thursday, August 18, 2016

Midwife in Chicago, "Human Wolves" in Oklahoma

A Chicago Midwife, 1901

Annie Robinson, a 28-year-old homemaker, died in her Chicago home at around 4:00 a.m. on August 18, 1901. About ten days earlier she confessed to her husband, George, and her mother, Mary Schroeder, that she was suffering from the effects of a criminal abortion and named midwife Teresa Muenster as the perpetrator. George told the family doctor, H. I. Hook, and Hook recommended that George notify the police. It ultimately had been Hook who notified authorities about Annie's death.

After his wife died, George went to the police. "I had no idea that my wife had visited Mrs. Muenster," he said, "and until she knew that she was dying she kept the matter a secret from me. When she learned that she was about to die she called to her bedside her mother and myself. She declared that she had visited the Muenster woman three times, and that the midwife was responsible for her condition. She told us, moreover, that her brother's wife, Caroline Schroeder, who died two years ago, had been a patient of the Muenster woman, and that the second treatment by the midwife proved fatal to her. I am determined to see that justice is done and that somebody shall pay for the death of my wife."

Muenster, about 60 years old, had been a practicing Chicago midwife for 30 years. George, a cashier at a streetcar company, was left to care for their two small children. Dr. Muenster was arrested that day, and she was held by the Coroner's Jury. Mrs. Robinson's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

The First Victim of "Human Wolves," Oklahoma, 1917

I learned about 18-year-old Elsie Stone‘s sad end while looking for memorials for the unborn at Find-a-Grave. Evidently Colby Weaver, who is interested in old graves, was intrigued by the inscription on another woman‘s headstone. Underneath the dates on the marker of Katherine Cross are the words: "Murdered by Human Wolves." Weaver tracked down a newspaper article on Katherine‘s death by criminal abortion, and there learned of this earlier victim.

The Seminole County News in Oklahoma reported that 18-year-old school teacher Elsie Stone went to the practice of Dr. A. H. Yates on August 15, 1917, for a "criminal operation." Elise remained there for three or four days before being sent home, where she died.

On her death certificate, her death was attributed to "congestive chill." But concerned citizens complained to the County Attorney, A.G. Nichols. Nichols ordered Elsie's body exhumed and an autopsy performed at the cemetery; thus the real cause of her death was discovered.

Yates was arrested, along with Fred O'Neil, the principal of the school where Elise worked. The men waived arraignment. O'Neil, a married man, was accused of arranging the abortion. Elsie's friends said that O'Neil was the father of her baby.

Yates and O'Neil were originally charged with murder, but because of legal technicalities the charges were reduced to manslaughter. Yates was arrested for Katherine Cross's abortion while awaiting trial. Yates was subsequently acquitted even though the initial ballot for the jury was 11 to 1 for conviction.

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