Saturday, January 23, 2021

January 23: Mystery Abortion Deaths in Chicago

A Lay Abortionist, 1929

As was the case nationwide before legalization, the majority of Chicago's illegal abortionists were midwives or physicians, though there were the occasional lay abortionists such as Katherine Bajda, identified as a homemaker in the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database. Despite not being a medical professional, Bajda benefited from Chicago's catch-and-release system of dealing with deadly abortionists.

On January 23, 1929, 22-year-old Edna Vargo died in Chicago from an abortion performed that day, Bajda was held by the Coroner on February 14. On March 15, she was indicted for felony murder in Edna's death. Three days later, while free to ply her trade, Bajda got caught with 25-year-old abortion patient Violet Diancalana dead in her home.

An Unidentified Perp, 1925

On January 23, 1925, 34-year-old Kate Radochouski died at Chicago's Lakeside Hospital from complications of an abortion performed that day. The Homicide in Chicago database says that she died at the scene of the crime, and that there was an arrest on February 11. But there is no name given for the person arrested. No perpetrator was ever identified.

A Midwife, 1914

On January 23, 1914, 17-year-old Helen Klick, who worked as a domestic servant, died at Cook County Hospital from sepsis, arising from an abortion perpetrated on January 17 by midwife Margaret Wiedemann. Wiedemann, age about 46, was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion, but was acquitted.

Wiedemann had been arrested in May of the previous year for the death of Sophia Wagner. She admitted to having performed the fatal abortion. I've been unable as of yet to determine why she was free to be implicated in Helen's death. The fact that Wiedemann was at large is especially tragic in that she was convicted and sentenced to prison for Sophia's death nearly two years after Helen's death.

Another Midwife, 1913

On January 23, 1913, 32-year-old homemaker. Margaret Wagner died at Post Graduate Hospital in Chicago from septic infection caused by an abortion perpetrated on January 9. The suspected abortionist was midwife Caroline Orbach, aged about 45. Orbach was held by the Coroner on January 24. 

A woman named Mamie Williams testified that she had accompanied Margaret to Orbach's home frequently. Mamie Williams also said that Margaret told her that Orbach had performed an abortion on her. Orbach denied having perpetrated the abortion. The case went to trial but Orbach was acquitted on November 25 for reasons I have been unable to determine. ("Woman Held as Slayer," Chicago Examiner, January 25, 1913)

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