Saturday, August 21, 2021

August 21: The First Known Victim of the Notorious Dr. Hagenow

Louise Derchow
, age 23, is the first known victim of notorious criminal abortionist Dr. Louisa "Lucy" Hagenow

Louise had been born in a village near Hamburg, Germany. Some time in the mid 1880s she moved to San Francisco and took work as a domestic servant in the home of Mrs. Steinhart at 1090 Post Street. She was courted by another German immigrant, a barkeep named Henry Peckelhoff. Those who knew the couple anticipated that they'd marry soon.

In early August of 1887, Louise moved in with Henry and began using his surname. 

On August 9, 1887 Louise told Peckelhoff that she was pregnant, and he told her to go to Dr. Hagenow's “maternity hospital” at 19 Twelfth Street in San Francisco to be examined. She was admitted, and Peckelhoff later said that she seemed well when he visited her there until but something went wrong. Louise died at about 1 a.m. on Monday, August 21.

Peckelhoff went to an undertaker named Suhr at about 2 a.m., saying that he needed a burial for his wife. The undertaker's assistant removed Louise's body from Hagenow's establishment at about 3 a.m., then went to get a death certificate from Hagenow. The Assistant Secretary of the Health Department refused to issue a burial permit with a death certificate signed by Hagenow because she was on a list of "illegal practitioners." The clerk said that Dr. S. S. Kahn was authorized to examine the body and issue a death certificate if no qualified doctor could sign one. Mr. Suhr said that he could get a new certificate signed by a properly qualified physician.

The undertaker's assistant and Hagenow went looking for Dr. F. F. DeDerky, who had also attended Louise. They couldn't find him, so Hagenow's cook forged DeDerky's signature on a death certificate identifying the woman as Louise I. Peckelshoff  in order to get the health department to accept the death certificate and issue the burial permit, which was finally released at 3 p.m. 

The funeral was held an hour later. 

Because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Louise's death, the City Physician disinterred Louise's remains and performed an autopsy at the Odd Fellow's Cemetery on September 1. He found what was termed “conclusive evidence” of an abortion, with inflammation caused by an instrument. 

Hagenow insisted that Louise had shown up at her door already seriously ill and bleeding heavily. Prior to her death, Hagenow admitted, Louise was delivered of a four-month fetus. She also admitted that the young woman had died of peritonitis.

All told, Hagenow was tried three times in Louise's death, and acquitted in the third trial, just around the time she was being investigated in the abortion deaths of Annie Dorris and Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep shortly after discharge from Hagenow's maternity home. The third acquittal was largely attributed to the death of the state's star witness, a journalist who had originally broken the story. 

One of Peckelhoff's friends helped him to go through the young woman's possessions and found the necessary addresses to write to her friends back home in Germany about her death.

Hagenow relocated to Chicago and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including Minnie Deering, Sophia Kuhn , Emily Anderson, Hannah Carlson, Marie Hecht, May Putnam, Lola Madison, Annie Horvatich, Lottie Lowy, Nina Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary Moorehead.


Sunday, August 08, 2021

August 8: Abortifacient Proves Fatal

Norman Schaeffer, a 40-year-old railroad worker, was arrested on allegations that he had provided abortifacients to 20-year-old Jennie L. Young of Washington, PA. Jennie had made a formal deathbed statement to that effect a few days before she died on August 8, 1905. During her final days she was attended by Dr. Crawford and Dr. Dunning.

Jennie's father, Franklin Young, testified at the inquest that Jennie had told him that Schaeffer had gotten him the drugs. A neighbor, Mary Snultz, testified that Jennie had indicated that she was about four months pregnant and that a man had provided her with abortifacient drugs.

  • "Charged With Abortion," Lancaster (PA) Inquirer, August 12, 1905