Friday, November 06, 2020

December 6, 1874: To Prevent Three Deaths?

Some time late in 1874, 42-year-old Christine Seifreid learned that she was pregnant. This was a serious problem, since her husband, Jacob, was in Europe at the time and thus could not have been the baby's father. 

Some time in early December she took ill and was attended by Dr. McIntee. She told him about an abortion but refused to tell him who had performed it. She finally breathed her last in her home on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn on December 6.

Two days later an inquest was held but the authorities were unable to determine the whereabouts of the abortionist. That's when the police went to work.

It's unclear how they ended up with 32-year-old midwife Johanna White, but they set up a sting operation.

Sarah C. Lupham was one of the detectives who caught White. On December 15 she went to 96 Stanton St., rang the bell, and asked for the lady of the house. The servant, Margaret Smith, said that "madam" had gone to Jersey City and would be back at around 4:00 that afternoon. Detective Lupham told the servant that she'd come a long way and wanted to stay until she could see the woman. 

She asked the servant for "madam's" name and was given a German name. Detective Lupham said that this wasn't the woman she wanted to see. The servant then gave the name White, and the detective said that she was there to arrange an abortion for a friend. 

When White came back and spoke to Detective Lupham, she said she would perform the abortion for pay $30 (just over $700 in 2020 dollars). White said that she didn't use medicines to cause abortion but would use instruments. 

Detective Lupham said that White had been recommended by a friend who had been there about two weeks earlier. White described Christine, and the servant volunteered that White had used a steel instrument about a foot long to do the abortion. Detective Lupham made an appointment for the abortion to be performed the following Monday. 

Detective Lupham returned at the designated time and told White that the people who had agreed to pay for the abortion hadn't shown up with the money. Lupham showed White a photograph of Christine, and White said "Oh yes, that is the woman," and described having performed two operations during the young woman's visit. She said that Christine had told her that if White didn't perform the abortion there would be three deaths, because her husband would kill her (and thus the baby) and then would be hanged. 

The detective testified before the coroner's jury. Their verdict read:

We find that Christine Seifred and child came to their deaths by metro peritonitis, on the 6th day of December, at 205 Myrtle avenue, caused by having had an operation performed to produce an abortion, and which did produce an abortion on her, and that the said operation of abortion was performed by a woman known as Madame White, at 96 Stanton street, in the City of New York, on the deceased, Christine Seifred, and that the said Madame White was aided and abetted in the performance of the said abortion by her servant, and we the jury further find that Christian (sic) Seifred was about three months pregnant when Madame White performed the operation of abortion on her, causing the death of her and her child.

After her arrest, White denied everything. The story Detective Lupham gave of White volunteering a description of Christine and identifying her by a photograph doesn't sound very legitimate to me. Guilty or innocent, White denied everything.

I have been unable to determine the outcome of the case. However, White was free in 1876, when she was implicated in the abortion deaths of Matilda Baringer and Mary Hermann. This would indicate that she beat the rap.

Newly added source: "Malpractice: Murder as a Profession Illustrated," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 29, 1874

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