Tuesday, August 18, 2020

August 18: A Deadly Secret and a Victim of "Human Wolves"

 A Deathbed Accusation, 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. Hook notified authorities about Annie's death.

George spoke willingly 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. Muenster was arrested that day, and she was held by the Coroner's Jury. I've been  unable to determine the ultimate outcome of the case.

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

Source: "Midwife is Held on Serious Charge," The Inter Ocean, August 19, 1901

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 Konowa , Oklahoma practice of Dr. A. H. Yates on August 15, 1917. Elsie remained there for three or four days before being moved to Yate's home, where she died.

Miss Powel, Elsie's aunt, testified that Yates had summoned her to Konowa after Elsie's death. Yates' original claim was that Elsie had taken ill while passing through Konowa on a train and had been brought to his practice for care.

On her death certificate, Yates attributed Elsie's death to "congestive chill." However, 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. Dr. M. M. Turlington, the Seminole County health officer, believed that the abortion had been perpetrated about 24 hours prior to Elsie's death.

Yates was arrested, along with Fred O'Neil, who had served the principal of the school where Elsie had worked. The men waived arraignment. O'Neil, a married man with three children, was accused of arranging the abortion. He reportedly brought meals to Elsie while she was at Yate's practice. 

Two of the state's witnesses, Beulah Whooten and Mrs. S. M. Thompson said that Elsie had cried and told them about how O'Neil had ruined her life. Beulah said that she'd seen O'Neill hand Elsie a package that contained a letter and some medicine. 

Mrs. Thompson testified, "Elsie told me in June that she had been wronged. She showed me letters from Fred O'Neil which told her to take medicine and that was all he could do for her, that he was a married man and couldn't afford to let it become public on him. She told me about how she was led off by this party and she told me she was going to meet Yates and O'Neil and they were going to take care of her condition."

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 fatal abortion while awaiting trial. Yates and O'Neil were subsequently acquitted even though the initial ballot for the jury was 11 to 1 for conviction.


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