Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November 30: A Repeat Offender's First Known Victim

On November 30, 1927, 22-year-old homemaker Lucille van Iderstine of 1844 Cuyler Avenue, Chicago died in the Chicago office of Dr. Emil Gleitsman (pictured) from an abortion that had been performed on her that day. 

Lucille left behind a three-year-old son and  her husband, William.

Gleitsman was indicted for felony murder in Lucille's death on January 15, 1928. 

Evidently Gleitsman beat the rap on Lucille's death because he was later implicated in the abortion deaths of Jeanette Reder in 1930, Mary Colbert in 1933, Marie O'Malley in 1941, and "Maggie" Doe.

November 30: The Widower Demands Justice

At around 2:00 on the afternoon of November 30, 1874, Charles Dix went to the Madison Street Police Station in Chicago to report that Dr. W. T. Aiken had performed a fatal abortion on his wife, Mary. Mary Dix had died the previous day, November 29, at around 12:30 a.m. Detective Flynn of Madison Street Station arrested Dr. W. F. Aikin, who had his office at 343 State Street. The warrant was sworn out for Aiken's arrest. 

Charles said that about a week earlier, Dr. Aiken had come to the house to treat one of their two children, who was sick. Charles had been napping on the sofa and overheard a conversation between Mary and Dr. Aiken that sounded as if Mary was arranging for Aikin to perform an abortion on her. When Aiken left, Charles spoke to Mary about what he'd overheard and she admitted that he was right but promised not to follow through.

Mary left the house on November 29 and was gone all afternoon and into the early evening. That night Mary was in such violent pain that Charles concluded that she'd gone through with the abortion after all. 

She was doing much worse the next day, which alarmed Charles so he summoned Aiken. A servant girl walked to the Dix house with Aiken and told Charles that Aiken had said that he hoped Mrs. Dix would keep her mouth shut if anything went wrong. Charles immediately told Aikin to leave and summoned Dr. Xelonski. He cared for Mary until Friday, when her condition became so critical that he called in Dr. Fleming and Dr. Edwards to help. The three doctors were unable to save her and she died at around 1:30 on the afternoon of December 2.

On questioning, Aiken said that he had been the Dix family physician for several months, having treated both Mr. Dix and his little daughter. On November 22 Mrs. Dix had visited his office for treatment. She came again on Tuesday the 24th, when he examined her and prescribed some medicine. She told him that Dr. White, a physician in Buffalo, had operated on her. Aiken said that he advised her not to walk home but she did so anyway. On Friday the 28th he went to the Dix home and their servant told him that he wasn't to come to the house any more. Mr. Dix, he said, acted strangely and reiterated that his services were no longer wanted. The conversation Mr. Dix had over heard was Mrs. Dix, Aiken said, telling him that she'd already attempted an abortion on herself and wanted to be examined to see if the attempt had been successful. He insisted that the servant girl was of low character and that nobody should trust anything she said. 

The next morning Dr. Fleming and the County Physician, Dr. Henrotin, performed an autopsy at the house. After hours of examining Mary's body and consulting with each other and Dr. Leonard they concluded that Mary's baby had been dead about three weeks before her death.

After an intensive investigation, however, a coroner's jury found no evidence that Mary had told anybody that she'd used any kind of instrument on herself. Witnesses included Julia Brown, Anna Merrit, and Dr. Van Buren. Dr. Wickersham testified about the cause of death as observed in the post-mortem examination. Their final conclusion was as followed:

An inquisition was taken for the People of the State of Illinois... on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd days of December, A. D. 1874, before me, John Stephens, Coroner in and for said county, upon view of the body of Mary Dix, and we find that the deceased, now lying dead at 250 West Randolph street, came to her death, Nov. 30, 1874, from primary inflammation of the womb, followed by septicemia, said inflammation being the result of an effort of the deceased to produce an abortion on herself.

Aiken, age 33, was a graduate of Maryland University. He had been a doctor for fifteen years, serving as an Army surgeon during the Civil War, during which time he was wounded at Gettysburg. He came to Chicago to practice medicine after the war and lived with his wife and son in rooms adjoining his office. 

When a reporter went to the Dix house to speak with Charles, a man greeted him at the door to tell him that Mr. Dix was worn out and distraught and in no condition to speak with a reporter. The man relayed to the reporter that Mr. Dix had been alarmed when his wife had returned from Aiken's office on Tuesday and had called in Dr. Fleming, Dr. Xelowski, and Dr. E.W. Edwards on Friday. The family had moved to Chicago from Buffalo. The couple had a 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, and had three more children who had died.


Monday, November 29, 2021

November 29: All for a Hollywood Career

Virginia Hopkins Watson, an Illinois native, had been on a record-setting relay swimming team with Esther Williams in 1939. Virginia had herself set the world's fifty-meter record in 1938. 

When she was admitted to California Hospital on November 26, 1954, doctors had reason to believe that something fishy was going on. They provided care until around 8:00 on the evening of November 29, when they transferred her to General Hospital because her kidneys had shut down, requiring an artificial kidney machine that California Hospital didn't have.

The kidney machine was unable to save Virginia's life. She died shortly before midnight. An autopsy concluded that she had died from peritonitis, bronchopneumonia, and purulent pericarditis. An abortionist had punched a hole in her uterus with an instrument, leading to the fatal infection.

It wasn't until 4:15 the morning of November 30 that anybody reported the cause of her illness to the police for investigation. 

Virginia had been 32 years old and pursuing a Hollywood career, hoping to follow the trail blazed by her former teammate. However, after being offered a small movie role in "Jungle Jim" with "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller, she became pregnant. Since she couldn't do the movie in a visible state of pregnancy, Virginia arranged to have an abortion on November 18. 

An investigation uncovered that she had arranged for a lay abortionist, Roger Fred Brenon, to come to her house and perform the abortion there. Brenon had only been paroled three days earlier after serving 11 months of a jail term for perpetrating abortions that hadn't proved fatal to the women.

Virginia and her husband, Arthur, had been married for about ten years. They were living in a home shared with Virginia's mother. 

Arthur, who had to be compelled to testify in hearings and promised immunity, wept as he told his story. When shown a photo of Virginia that had been taken in the morgue, Arthur immediately looked away and cried, "Turn it over!"

Arthur seemed to have carefully avoided learning too much about what was going on even after observing Brenon in the kitchen evidently sterilizing some instruments  by boiling them on the stove. At Virginia's instruction, Arthur also wrote a check payable to cash for $150 and gave it to Brenon. (About $870 in 2020)

After the abortion, Virginia became sick with vomiting and bleeding before passing the dead fetus. 

By November 26, Virginia had difficulty in breathing and was taken to California Hospital. 

In telling the authorities about the events that led to his wife's death, he indicated that Brenon had visited Virginia two years earlier, spent time alone with her, and went off with a check Arthur had written. During  both visits, Arthur said, he'd been under the impression that Brenon was a physician named Rogers. 

Police Officer Herman Zander said that he had questioned Brenon after Virginia's death. Brenon had hedged about whether he knew Virginia. He attributed any possible acquaintance to the fact that he and his father had been members of the club where Virginia was a swimming teacher. When Officer Zander asked Brenon if he had used a catheter and a solution of tincture of green soap to induce an abortion on Virginia, Brenon reportedly responded, "I never used a catheter before. I always used a small glass syringe."

Brenon waived trial and chose to have his case heard before Judge Clement D. Nye. Brenon was convicted of second-degree murder in Virginia's death. He received a sentence of five years to life, along with a 1- to 5-year sentence for a probation violation. 

On appeal Brenon asserted that the testimony of Virginia's husband needed corroborating evidence, since Arthur was an accomplice, not merely a witness. Arthur had claimed 5th Amendment protection during Brenon's trial. He had admitted Brenon to the house, observed him cleaning instruments, written him a check, and destroyed the cancelled check when it was returned by the bank. Brenon's appeal was denied.


November 29: Lucy Hagenow's Final Known Victim

On November 29, 1926, 25-year-old stenographer Mary Moorehead died from a criminal abortion perpetrated in the Chicago office of Dr. Lucy Hagenow. 

Hagenow (pictured) wasn't arrested until November 13 of the following year. 

Hagenow told the court that Mary had come to her office on November 5, giving her name as Margaret Sullivan. Hagenow said that she examined Mary, who had a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Hagenow said that she concluded that Mary's unborn baby had died.

Hagenow said that she packed Mary's vagina with an antiseptic-soaked cotton ball and sent her home. She said that she told Mary that she would come by the next day with another doctor. If that doctor concurred that the baby was dead, Hagenow would get yet another doctor to come and perform an operation to remove the dead baby. 

Hagenow said that Mary paid her $50 in advance for the promised care and left, but when she went to the address "Margaret Sullivan" had provided she found only a vacant lot. That was the last she'd known of the woman, she said, until she was arrested for Mary's death.

The prosecution, however, asserted that several police officers had been present when Mary was about to go surgery in an attempt to save her life. With Hagenow present, Mary told the police that Hagenow had used instruments on her to perpetrate an abortion on November 5.

Dr. Charles H. Phifer testified that on November 7 he saw Mary at her home. She was in a lot of pain and told him that she had been to see Hagenow. Dr. Phifer concluded that Mary was in labor, though he could not determine if the unborn child was alive or dead. He said that he told Mary to consult with Dr. Hagenow.

The next time Dr. Phifer saw Mary it was at Illinois Central Hospital on November 12. She was no longer pregnant and was suffering from septicemia. 

Hagenow was convicted of murder by abortion for Mary's death. She was sentenced to 14 years at Joliet Penitentiary, but was able to get her conviction overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial in 1929. The judge, noting that there was no new evidence, dismissed the case, telling Hagenow, "You had better make your peace with God, Lucy Hagenow. I do not think your months on earth are many." 

Hagenow, who also went by the name of Louise or Louisa Hagenow, had a long and unsavory history of being involved in women's abortion deaths. The first were in San Francisco before Hagenow relocated to Chicago around 1890. The abortion deaths Hagenow was linked to include:

Sunday, November 28, 2021

November 28: A Young Bride's Fatal Decision

On November 28, 1888, an 18-year-old young woman identified in the news as "Mrs. George Libby" died in Wahpeton in the Dakota Territories.

A wedding announcement from 1887 leads me to believe that her first name was Anna.

Mrs. Libby was hospitalized before her death. She told physicians there that she had taken an abortifacient drug peddled by a traveling salesman.

After Mrs. Libby's death a post-mortem examination was done which revealed that she had never been pregnant.


  • Untitled clippings from the Wahpeton Times (November 29, 1888), Sioux City Journal (December 2, 1888), and Wessington Springs Herald (December 14, 1888)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

November 18: Betty McGeehan new materials need updated

Summary: On November 18, 1942, 26-year-old Madylon "Betty" McGeehan, an OPA stenographer who had been living in Washington DC., died at Prospect Hospital in New York of peritonitis after an illegal abortion. Dr. Joseph Nisonoff was ultimately convicted of manslaughter in her death and sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison.

Betty McGeehan

Madylon "Betty" McGeehan was a Pennsylvania girl, born to Robert and Rita McGeehan in 1916 in the city of Hazleton, not far from Allentown. She and her younger siblings, Robert and Mary, were raised by their mother.

Betty was active on the high school yearbook staff and in the oratory club. She graduated from Hazleton High School in 1934.

In 1940 she was lodging with the Falwells family and working as a senior clerk typist at the DPA office in Hazleton. 

She left Hazleton in May of 1942 to take a job as a stenographer with the War Production Board in Washington, DC. She lived there with her sister, Mary. Her brother, Robert, was a Lieutenant in the Army stationed in Columbia, South Carolina. Her mother remained behind in their Maple Avenue home in Hazleton.

Harry Takes Charge

Henry Elters was a 28-year-old unemployed accountant from Hazelton. He and Betty, then age 26, had known each other for about seven years and had come to be known as sweethearts in their community. Though they'd sometimes checked into hotels together as husband and wife, he denied being responsible for Betty's pregnancy.

Elters testified that he had contacted Dr. Max J. Weinstein, age 37, on or about October 15. The young couple had known Weinstein socially for about four years through mutual friends. Elters told Weinstein that Betty was pregnant and they wanted to know "what might be done about it." Betty made the trip about a week later to keep the appointment. Weinstein confirmed that Betty was pregnant. Elters and Weinstein consulted by phone over the ensuing days about an abortion. Weinstein told Elters that  an abortion could be arranged and would cost about $150.

On October 23, Betty went to Dr. Kushner in Washington, DC. Kushner, a reputable OB/GYN and clinical professor at Georgetown University. She gave her name as Mrs. Betty Elters and said that she'd come for prenatal care. Kushner found her to be about two and a half to three months pregnant and in good health. She paid him $20, which was  part of his fee for full obstetrical care.

Meanwhile Harry continued to make other appointments. That very day, Weinstein referred Elters and Betty to Dr. Lassman in Manhattan. The couple visited Lassman the next day but he refused to perform an abortion. Elters telephoned Weinstein to let him know. It was then that Weinstein referred the pair to 58-year-old Dr. Joseph Nisonoff. He provided Elters with the address of Nisonoff's 71st Street office, so they pair went there. The nurse told them that since Betty didn't have an appointment, Nisonoff couldn't see her. Elters went back to Hazleton and Betty returned home to DC.

Harry's Persistence, Betty's Reluctance

Elters didn't take any more action until November 7, when he called Weinstein to say that Betty "still wanted the abortion to be done" and asked Weinstein to see what he could do. He called again the next day and Weinstein gave him the address of Nisonoff's office in Queens and said that the abortion would cost $600.

Evidently Weinstein had told Elters that he'd make the arrangements, because it was he who called the Queens office and made the arrangements. He called at about 10:00 on the morning of November 10 and spoke to Nisonoff's nurse, Camille Ewald. Though not a registered nurse, Ewald had worked at the offices of Dr. Henschel and Dr. Lassman -- likely the same Dr. Lassman Betty and Elters had originally visited -- before going to work for Nisonoff. Weinstein said that he wanted to arrange an abortion and that the patient could pay $600. He also told Ewald that since Betty had been treated rudely by the nurse at the 71st Street office, he preferred that she be seen in Queens. Ewald told Weinstein that she'd have to consult with Nisonoff and to call back at noon. Weinstein did, and Ewald told him that Betty could be seen that afternoon. 

Betty and Elters went to Nisonoff's office as planned. He confirmed a healthy 10 or 11 week pregnancy. At that time, Betty balked at an abortion so Nisonoff referred her back to Weinstein. Weinstein called Nisonoff's office to commiserate, saying, "It is a shame to lose the patient. It was a nice fee."

Elters and Weinstein also spoke by phone, lamenting the fact that Betty hadn't gone through with the abortion. When the two spoke again on November 11, Weinstein said that he'd made another appointment for Betty to have the abortion at 2:00 on the afternoon of November 13. He told Elters to bring Betty to his office first. 

The next day, November 12, Elters drove to DC in the afternoon and met Betty. He dropped her off at the railroad station at about 9:00 that evening, telling her that he'd meet her in New York the following day. He returned to Hazleton. 

The Abortion

On November 13, Elters drove from Hazleton to New York, picked Betty up at Pennsylvania Station, and drove her to Weinstein's office in the Bronx. He later testified that Betty told him that she'd had some bleeding and nausea and that she'd seen a doctor in Washington -- presumably about an abortion. It's entirely possible that even at this point in time, Betty still wanted to have her baby and was hoping she could convince Elters that she'd already gone through with one so that she could back out.

The trio drove from Weinstein's office to Nisonoff's office, arriving there at around 3:00 p.m. Weinstein told Ewald that Elters had the fee. Elters counted out the $600 to the nurse, and she handed it off to Nisonoff. She then told both men to return in about an hour and a half. Weinstein retreated to the waiting room, while Elters went out for a walk.

Camille Ewald helped Betty onto the procedure table, clipped her pubic hair, and administered a vaginal douche. Ewald said that the douche water came out clear, with no sign of blood.

Nisonoff came in and administered gas to put Betty to sleep. He inserted a speculum, which Ewald held down with her right hand. Nisonoff dilated Betty's cervix with instruments. He used an instrument to draw the uterus towards him, then used curettes and forceps for fifteen or twenty minutes as Ewald observed. She testified that he pulled out "meat and little bones and things like that, like bones from the hand and bones from the feet." 

During the abortion Weinstein poked his head in to check on the progress of the procedure. Nisonoff assured him that all was well. Then suddenly Nisonoff broke out in a sweat and blood spurted from Betty's vagina onto his eyeglasses. He asked Ewald to clean them and wipe his face, which she did. He seemed nervous, with his hand trembling. He quickly asked for iodoform packing so that he could pack Betty's uterus and vagina. Ewald brought the packing, Nisonoff packed the patient, and then Ewald helped Betty to get down off the table and walk to a couch to rest. 

The Aftercare Plan

Betty complained of abdominal cramping. Nisonoff asked Ewald to take Betty with her to the home she shared with her two sisters on 42nd Street in Long Island. Ewald protested that there was no room for Betty in the three-room apartment, but Nisonoff persisted. Ewald eventually agreed.

Elters returned to the office about 45 minutes after he'd left. He encountered Weinstein in the waiting room and asked how things had gone. Weinstein assured him that all had gone well. Elters went into the office and saw Betty lying on a couch, attended by Ewald. Weinstein told Elters that Betty was going to be taken someplace for aftercare. Elters stayed with Betty for about fifteen minutes then met Weinstein outside and drove him back to his office.

At around 5:00, Camille Ewald took Betty to her home in a taxi.

At around 7:30, Betty said that she was in pain. Ewald called around to find Nisonoff, finally getting in touch with him at around 8:00. She told him about Betty's pain and cramps. He told her to remove the packing, which she did.

Nisonoff called Ewald between 11:00 and midnight to ask how Betty was doing. Ewald said that she was still in pain, but her temperature and pulse were normal.


On the morning of Saturday, November 14, Ewald went to Nisonoff's office in Queens to report that Betty was still unwell and had spent a very restless night. She asked him to come and check on the young woman. They went to Ewald's apartment together. Betty was unable to pass urine so Nisonoff inserted a catheter. Ewald said that the urine contained blood and little clots.

The doctor and nurse went back to the office. Nisonoff called Dr. Spielman, saying that he'd operated on Betty, describing her condition, and asking why she was bleeding so much. He wondered if he had perforated her bladder. Nisonoff conveyed to Ewald that Spielman didn't think Betty's bladder was perforated because such an injury would have left her unable to get off the table. He asked Spielman to examine Betty, but he refused.

At around 2:00 that afternoon, Nisonoff went to Ewald's apartment to check on Betty. He noted that her temperature and pulse seemed normal and wrote out a prescription for some medications, including morphine. Though he knew his patient as either Madylon McGeehan or Betty McGee, he wrote the prescription for "Ca. Ewald." He put Betty's correct age of 26, not Camille Ewald's age of 36, as the age of the patient.

Later that night Nisonoff called Ewald to check on Betty. Ewald told him that there had been no improvement in the young woman's condition.


On Sunday morning, November 15, Nisonoff called Ewald again for an update. She said that Betty's condition was deteriorating and asked him to come check on her. When he arrived he found that she had a fever and a rapid pulse. He told Ewald that they'd have to transport Betty to Prospect Hospital by ambulance. He called the hospital's owner to arrange for her to be admitted under the name "Betty McGee" and to receive blood transfusions.

Ewald called an ambulance that afternoon. Nisonoff agreed to reimburse her the $14 ambulance fee. Betty was removed from Ewald's apartment on a stretcher by John Myers, the owner and driver of Forest Hills Ambulance Service, and his assistant. Camille Ewald rode in the back of the ambulance with Betty. She was admitted at 3:10 p.m.

Nisonoff wrote the following admission note:

November 15, name Betty, 26 years old, married, family and personal history negative -- except for a sacroiliac -- last menstruation two months ago. Present complaint, bleeding from the vagina and pain. Examination of the abdomen tender and rigid. Temperature 100.2, pulse 116. Respiration 20. Examination: external os open and bleeding. Uterus size 10 weeks, diagnosis incomplete abortion, probably peritonitis. Patient denies criminal interference.

A diagnosis of an "incomplete abortion" could apply equally to a miscarriage or an induced abortion. He arranged for Betty to have a day nurse and a night nurse to look after her. Camille Ewald remained with Betty until she'd received a transfusion.

Somebody contacted Elters and let him know that Betty had been hospitalized.


On Monday, November 16, Betty received two more blood transfusions. Nisonoff phoned Dr. Alfred M. Hellman, a highly reputable ob/gyn Nisonoff had known for about twenty years. Nisonoff asked him to assist in Betty's care. He then called Weinstein and asked him to meet him outside the hospital at 3:00 because Hellman was going to examine Betty. 

Nisonoff and Camille Ewald picked Dr. Hellman up at his office at around 3:00 p.m. and drove to the hospital, where they found Weinstein waiting outside. Ewald and Weinstein remained in a waiting area for about twenty minutes while Hellman and Nisonoff went to see Betty.

During his trial Nisonoff testified that he'd told Hellman that Betty had come to his office on November 13 already in the process of expelling a fetus, which was partially protruding from her vagina. He asserted that he'd told Hellman that he had removed the remains of the fetus, and explored Betty's uterus to ensure that there were no retained tissues. Hellman, however, said that Nisonoff had not given him any medical history on his patient. Hellman found Betty to be " a desperately ill woman," clearly suffering from peritonitis and moribund.

Nisonoff dictated a letter to the Board of Health:

Joseph Nisonoff, 145 West 71st Street, New York, Phone, Susquehanna 7-4457

November 16, 1942.


This is to inform you that Mrs. Betty McGeehan is under my care at the Prospect Hospital, 730 Kelly Street, diagnosis, incomplete abortion and probable pelvic peritonitis or double salpingitis.

Respectfully yours,

J. Nisonoff

The End Draws Near

On the morning of Tuesday, November 17, Betty received last rites.

Elters called Nisonoff later that day to ask if he could see Betty. Nisonoff told him to come by the office and he could go to the hospital with Ewald. While Elters waited for the nurse to come to the office, Nisonoff told him to make sure he told Betty to say that she'd had the abortion performed somewhere else and to say that Nisonoff had not performed it.

Ewald arrived at the office and she and Elters drove to the hospital together. They spent about half an hour with Betty. As Elters and Ewald left the hospital they met Nisonoff outside on the sidewalk. Elters asked for a prognosis and Nisonoff told him that Betty was going to die. He stressed to Elters that it was very important that he not talk about the matter.  He urged Elters to go back to Hazleton and act normally and say that he'd not seen or heard from Betty for about a year. Camille Ewald testified that Nisonoff also told Elters to deny ever having seen any of the parties involved in the abortion -- not Weinstein, not Nisonoff, and not Ewald -- or they would all go to jail. He had Ewald get the phone number for Betty's mother.

Ewald went to Weinstein's office, where Weinstein told him not to say that he'd accompanied the young couple to Nisonoff's office.

Rather than returning to Hazleton, Elters left for Baltimore.

Meanwhile Nisonoff and Ewald returned to the office. Nisonoff called Rita McGeehan, telling her that her daughter was very ill at Prospect Maternity Hospital and that she should meet him at his office and they'd go to the hospital together.

Betty's Death

Betty breathed her last at 7:05 on the morning of Wednesday, November 18, 1942. Nisonoff wrote out the death certificate in the name of Betty McGee:

I hereby certify that I attended the deceased from November 15, 1942 to November 18, 1942 and last saw her alive at 6 A.M. on November 18, 1942. Statement of cause of death is based upon - principal cause of death: general peritonitis. Date of onset: November 16th; contributory cause of death: incomplete abortion.

Later that morning Nisonoff told Camille Ewald that Mrs. McGeehan had gone to the hospital and that Betty had died. She said that Nisonoff also told her to say that Weinstein had done the abortion in his office then called Nisonoff, who had arranged for hospitalization. She said she was also to say that she lived on 61st Street, with Nisonoff's niece, Pearl Davis Tense, who was also his nurse at the 71st Street office.

The Investigation Begins

Detective Thomas M. Farrell went to the hospital to investigate Betty's death. Noting that Nisonoff had signed the death certificate he phoned him and asked him about the circumstances. Nisonoff told him that he'd been called in by Weinstein for a consultation and provided Weinstein's address at 1684 Macombs Road in the Bronx. Detective Farrell then went to the Fordham Morgue and observed the autopsy performed by Dr. Louis Lefkowitz, Assistant Medical Examiner. (Lefkowitz died suddenly and unexpectedly on March 6, 1943, a few days before Nisonoff's trial began.)

Dr. Lefkowitz noted in the autopsy:

Lying at the brim of the pelvis, free in the peritoneal cavity, between two coils of intestine is a portion of a foetus, which consists of the lower three cervical vertebrae, all the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, the ribs of the left side, and some loose tissue. The ribs on the other side, and the head, are absent. This specimen measures about 3 inches in length and is mangled. 

On the anterior surface of the uterus about 1/2 inch below the uppermost portion of the fundus is an irregular perforation, which readily admits the index finger; measures about 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter. It is roughly round in shape; the edges are necrotic, and ragged and from there protrudes some blood-clot. The perforation above-described penetrates the entire thickness of the anterior uterine wall, and there is some adherent placenta and membranes at the right fornix of the uterus. The remaining portion of the fundus of the uterus seems to be denuded of endometrium. There is some subendometrial haemorrhage in the internal os, which is dilated and readily admits a finger-tip. The walls of the uterus are soft and oedematous.

After observing the autopsy Detective Farrell went to Weinstein's office to question him about the first time he'd seen Madylon McGeehan. Weinstein gave the detective a card that read "Betty McGeehan -- November 15, 1942, vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, rapid pulse, Dr. Nisonoff called on consultation, admitted to Prospect Hospital."

Weinstein told Farrell that he'd gotten a phone call from Betty on November 15, requesting a consult for vaginal bleeding. He had told her that he didn't have Sunday office hours, but she insisted on being seen so he told her to meet him at his office at 11:30 that morning. When Betty arrived she was accompanied by "Henry Eltus," a man Weinstein had known for about four years. Weinstein said that due to the bleeding he did not do a vaginal examination but did take her vital signs before recommending that she see a gynecologist. He suggested Nisonoff. Nisonoff was at the wedding of his niece, Pearl Davis, who also worked as his receptionist. Weinstein managed to get hold of him and arrange for him to come and examine Betty. Nisonoff arrived at around 1:00 that afternoon, preformed a thorough examination, and recommended that Betty be hospitalized. Weinstein said that Nisonoff took Betty to Prospect Hospital in a tax

Weinstein told Farrell that he'd gone to the hospital on the 16th to consult with Nisonoff , who had told him that Betty was very ill. Weinstein said that the next time he'd gone to the hospital was Wednesday morning, only to learn that Betty had died.


At the time of Madylon's death, Nisonoff was out on $2,500 bail after being charged with performing another abortion, which the woman had survived. He had been arrested and freed on another abortion charge in 1930. During six hours of questioning, he denied any knowledge of Madylon's death. Nevertheless, he was arrested for homicide. The Assistant District Attorney asked that Nisonoff's bail be set at $150,000 because he was considered a flight risk. 

Pearl Tense, age 22, had fled to Texas but was tracked down, arrested, and held on $2,500 bail. 

Ewald was harder to track down. He was eventually located, arrested, and held on $15,000 bail. 

The manslaughter charge against Ewald was dropped and she was held as a material witness on $10,000 bail. 

NOTE: At this point I became confused by the timeline and conflicting testimony and gave up. Below are my notes. I'll catch this up next year on the anniversary of Betty's death.

On November 15, Elters was told that Madylon needed a blood transfusion. She was admitted to Prospect Hospital as Betty McGee. The admitting diagnosis was "incomplete abortion, probably peritonitis." Nisonoff sent a letter to the New York City Board of Health to that effect the following day. Somebody had called Nisonoff, who said that he guessed Madylon was "okay," and stayed at the wedding rather than come to attend to her himself. Madylon received three blood transfusions at the hospital.

A primary grounds for the appeal was that the Medical Examiner who had performed the autopsy and signed off on the report, Dr. Louis L. Lefkowitz, had died before the trial and thus could not be cross-examined by the defense. The city's Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas A. Gonzales, testified based on the autopsy report.

Camille Ewald arrested November 24 with Nisonoff.

After her death there, she was correctly identified by her sister, Mary, who had come came from the family home at Hazleton, PA, to claim Madylon's body.

Nisonoff was sentenced to 5 years in state prison, and Weinstein was sentenced to the city penitentiary.

As a result of the McGeehan case, the New York District Attorney's office began investigating other possible abortion rings in the city.

Nisonoff was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney James Carney. He and Camille Ewals were arrested at his apartment at 110 Riverside Drive on November 25. 

The indictment charged that Nisonoff, Weinstein, Pear Davis Tense, and Camille Ewald committed an abortion on Madylon on November 13, 1942. At the beginning of the trial charges against Pearl Tense were dismissed at the request of the District Attorney. 

Assistant District Attorney Francis X. O'Brien asserted that Nisonoff failed to provide any care to Madylon as she lay dying because he was attending the wedding of his niece, who was also his secretary.

Camille Ewald told the authorities that her boss was a professional abortionist who perpetrated between 20 and 25 abortions per week, which earned him $2,500 to $3,000. This seems a bit off, as Elters reportedly paid $600 for Madylon's abortion while if Camille was telling the truth Nisonoff would have been charging an average of about $125 for an abortion.

Joseph Nisonoff was sentenced to 5 - 15 years in state prison. Max J. Weinstein was sentenced to New York City Penitentiary for an indefinite term. On May 21, 1943 New York Supreme Court Justice Louis A. Valente granted a Certificate of Reasonable Doubt and Nisonoff and Weinstein were released on bail. His appeal ultimately failed.

Madylon's death and the subsequent investigation were covered extensively in New York, but not in her hometown newspaper. In fact, one obituary indicates that she died in Washington, D.C. of pneumonia rather than in New York. Buried in Saint Gabriel Roman Catholic Cemetery in Hazleton.


Monday, November 08, 2021

November 8: "A Rather Mysterious Sort of Rookery"

Mr. and Mrs. William J.F. Bullerman ran "a rather mysterious sort of rookery" in Chicago. On November 5, 1879 police discovered a woman named Elizabeth Foley, aka Sarah Monshan, seriously ill with septicemia at that "rookery."

Police suspected that the abortion had probably been perpetrated by Dr. Franklin Brooks, "who, a few years ago, was awarded six years at Joliet for abortion." Elizabeth's sister, Mary Monshan, was also held as an accessory. 

They took Mrs. Foley to Cook County Hospital, where she died on November 8. To the end, Elizabeth denied having undergone an abortion. She insisted that she'd given birth and that her sister, Mary, and taken the child to their mother's home in Greenbaugh, Wisconsin. Mary denied this, and her employer told police that she'd not been out of town at all.

The post-mortem examination showed that Elizabeth had indeed died from an abortion. The Bullermans were easy enough to find and charge with a crime, since they were in the county lock-up for stealing $250 in gas.

As for Brooks, even after getting out of Joliet for abortion, and after Elizabeth's death, continued to practice in Chicago. On December 22, 1891, a Swedish girl named Tillie Thom was found dead from an abortion at Brooks' office.


Saturday, November 06, 2021

November 6: The Damage Had Been Done

Unable to Undo the Damage

On November 6, 1919, 28-year-old Ms. Anna "Annie" Merriman died in Union Hospital in New Philadelphia, Ohio.  

Dr. C. L. Tinker testified that a man had come to his office on November 2 asking him to come quickly to Annie's bedside. Dr. Tinker found her deathly ill, with her heart racing at a staggering pulse rate of 190. Annie told him that she was ailing because of an abortion that had been performed by 66-year-old Dr. L. H. Hughes at his practice in Dennison, Ohio.

Dr. Tinker told Annie that her only hope of survival was to be hospitalized, and she consented. She was admitted to Union Hospital in Tuscarawas County. The next day she told a hospital employee that she'd gotten pregnant by a friend, rather than by her husband, Roy, from whom she had been separated for about two years. She had only been 16 years old when they had married.

Annie also told this woman, in front of two other witnesses, about the abortion, saying that he had been performed on October 25.

Annie's condition never improved, and she died at 7 p.m. on November 6. She left behind three children. Two physicians who performed a post-mortem examination concluded that Annie had died of general septic peritonitis from the abortion. Hughes was arrested in her death and released on $2,000 bail. He was able to get trial postponements due to difficulty in locating witnesses. I've been unable to determine the outcome of the case.

See newly added sources below.

An Unknown Perpetrator

On November 6, 1914, 25-year-old Genevieve Tatar died at Cook County Hospital in Chicago from complications of an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.


Watch the YouTube video.

New sources on Annie's death:

Friday, November 05, 2021

November 5: Scant Information From Death Record

On November 5, 1939, 22-year-old Jean Johnson of Bristow St., New York, died at Fordham Hospital in the Bronx.

Jean died from septic endometritis, perforation of the uterus, and pelvic peritonitis due to a criminal abortion.

I've been unable to learn any more information about this young woman's tragic death.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

November 4: Hail Mary Attempt Fails to Save Young Black Woman

Newspaper clipping showing headwhot of a middle aged white man with a receeding hairline, wearing a suit

Louchrisser Jackson, a 23-year-old married homemaker and mother of five, was 12 weeks pregnant when she went to Dr. Robert L. Gardner for a safe and legal abortion at Reproductive Services in Dallas on November 4, 1977.

Louchrisser began hemorrhaging. Gardner said that he ordered blood for a transfusion, but it didn't arrive so about an hour before her death he attempted to give her a transfusion with his own blood -- which turned out to be an incompatible type.

A private ambulance was called but was not informed of the nature of the transport. In that jurisdiction, private ambulances are only permitted to transport stable patients; they are prohibited from responding to emergency calls. Because the ambulance service had no reason to expect an emergency, they did not respond promptly, nor did they refer the transport to the fire department's ambulance service.

When the ambulance crew arrived, Louchrisser had gone into cardiac arrest. The crew, upon discovering that they'd been called for an emergency transport, rushed Louchrisser to the hospital immediately rather than calling for a fire department ambulance.

Louchrisser was transferred to Oak Cliff Medical and Surgical Hospital, where she died that day. Gardner requested that the body be released without an inquiry. Another physician at the hospital learned of the case and requested an inquiry.

The autopsy found massive hemorrhage of at least two liters of blood, and a "1.8 x 2 cm. ragged perforation in the right lateral wall just above the internal os of the cervical canal. This perforation communicates freely with the retroperitoneal space on the right side. The endometrial surface of the uterus is ragged and hemorrhagic." Death was attributed to "massive retroperitoneal hemorrhage due to perforation of the uterus during a therapeutic abortion."

After another patient, 21-year-old Claudia L., petitioned the state to close the clinic, it was revealed that:
  • The clinic was allowing counselors with no medical degree to give medical advice and perform medical procedures.
  • Staff were not informing patients of risks.
  • There was not emergency equipment on hand.
Gardner himself testified against the clinic, stating that they ran "an assembly-line operation." "Gardner admitted the clinic took only one or two minutes between operations, and used black-tarnished surgical instruments and 'switched sterile gloves between operations but never scrubbed down.'"

  • Death certificate
  • Dallas Times Herald June 20, 1978; Dallas Morning News June 20, 1978, June 23, 1978, and July 28, 1978; Texas Autopsy Report No. 2262-77-1103

Watch the YouTube video.

November 4: The Third of Six for Dr. Davis

On November 4, 1928, 22-year-old Norwegian immigrant Anna Borndal died at the office of Dr. Lou E. Davis of Chicago, from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Davis was held by the coroner for unintentional manslaughter. She was indicted by a grand jury for homicide.

Anna's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Anna was not the only women to have died at the hands of Dr. Davis. 

News clipping photo of an elderly white woman in profile, dated April 2, 1937
Dr. Lou Davis
Davis had already been implicated in the 1913 abortion death of 27-year-old Anna Adler and the 1924 abortion death of 26-year-old homemaker Mary Whitney. 

On December 1, 1928, yet another Davis patient, 23-year-old Esther V. Wahlstrom died from an abortion. This time Davis was at last convicted for her crime. he was free before long, however, and on May 19, 1932, 24-year-old Irene Kirschner died after an abortion perpetrated by Davis, who later faced three trials in three years over the February 7, 1934 abortion death of Gertrude Gaesswitz.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. 

During the first two thirds of the 20th Century, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality, including mortality from abortion. Most researches attribute this plunge to improvements in public health and hygiene, the development of blood transfusion techniques, and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

November 3: A Woman's Death, a Doctor's Denial

Twenty-six-year-old Moris Helen Herron went to Bakersfield, California Dr. William D. Stanley for a tubal ligation in October of 1983. When Stanley examined Helen, he informed her that she was pregnant and asked if she wanted him to perform a safe, legal abortion when he did the tubal ligation.

Helen consented, and on October 23, Stanley operated on her. After Helen went home, she suffered weakness, vomiting, and severe pain. She called Stanley, who instructed her to take a laxative.

Helen developed a high fever, and died on November 3. An autopsy found feces and feculent fluid in Helen's abdominal cavity from a hole in her intestines. Helen's mother, Inez Herron, sued Stanley on behalf of her two surviving children, and Stanley settled out of court for $200,000.

When a local pro-life group wrote to Stanley to chastise him for his treatment of Helen, he wrote back, saying, "Elective abortion refers to termination of a live viable pregnancy upon the request of the mother. I have never performed this service or even offered it." He asserted that he was merely performing a D&C on Helen after a miscarriage.

Watch the YouTube video.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

November 2: The Girl They Didn't Bother to Count

Claims about the safety of legal abortions rest upon the presumption that the Centers for Disease Control keep track of abortion deaths. The case of Latachie Veal should lay that presumption to rest.
Latachie was 17 years old, and 22 weeks pregnant, when Robert Dale Crist (pictured) performed an abortion on her at Houston's West Loop Clinic November 2, 1991.

According to Latachie's family, she bled heavily at the clinic, and cried out to the staff for help. They told her that her symptoms were normal, and sent her home. Several hours later, Latachie stopped breathing. Her brother-in-law called 911 while her sister did CPR, to no avail. Latachie was dead on arrival at Ben Taub Hospital.

If Latachie's death certificate had been filled out properly, with the notation of the abortion in the proper box, using the proper ICD-9 code, then theoretically the National Center for Health Statistics would spot the abortion code and report it. But most states send only a statistical sample of their death certificate data to the NCHS. So the CDC would be notified of Latachie's death through the NCHS only if the death certificate was properly filled out, and Latachie's death certificate was among those abstracted and sent to the NCHS.

But still, according to abortion defenders, Latachie's death would nevertheless be automatically reported to the Centers for Disease Control. They're not clear on who is supposed to report the death. Was West Loop Clinic supposed to report it? Was Crist supposed to report it? Was Ben Taub Hospital supposed to report it? Was the medical examiner supposed to report it? Was the Texas Department of Health supposed to report it? The CDC says it gets abortion death information from abortionists, abortion facilities, hospitals, and state health departments, but it does not mention that the reporting is not mandatory.

This does not mean that Latachie's death went utterly unnoticed.

Latachie's family filed suit, retaining the flamboyant "Racehorse" Haynes as their attorney. The case was highly publicized, both in Texas and in Missouri, where Crist had performed a fatal abortion on Diane Boyd, a 19-year-old developmentally disabled woman who had been raped in the institution where she'd lived.

The mainstream publicity went beyond the usual newspaper articles, with Crist giving television interviews calling the publicity "media hype" and "a political event." Haynes retorted, "I wish he would have a copy of the 911 tape.... If he would talk to the parents, if he would talk to the sister as she gave her CPR or talk to the brother-in-law as she was breathing her last breath and see then if he thinks it's a media event."

With all this mainstream publicity in two states, prolife organizations picked up the story, and it was reported in prolife newsletters around the nation.

A lot of people very quickly found out about the abortion death of 17-year-old Latachie Veal. But did the CDC?

Top half of square has blue background and "naf" in italic white. Bottom half is whie and says "NATIONAL ABORTION FEDERATION" in all caps.At the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in Dallas, Crist spoke openly of Latachie's death. (He did not, of course, mention her name; I've concluded that he's discussing Latachie's death, since there's been no evidence of any another 17-year-old abortion patient of his who died in 1991.) Crist blamed the death not on malpractice, but on disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, a clotting disorder sometimes triggered by injury or infection.

Present at that Risk Management Seminar, where Crist chattered about Latachie's death, were two -- count 'em -- two-- staffers from the Centers for Disease Control's abortion surveillance activities area: Stanley Henshaw and Lisa Koonin.

Henshaw's presence isn't quite as remarkable as Koonin's. It was Lisa Koonin, specifically, whose job it was to "verify" abortion deaths, and obtain copies of death certificates. These she was to pass on to a research fellow, Clarice Green, who would then gather the full information about the case.

a plump middle-aged white woman with fluffy permed black hair and wire rimmed glasses stands next to a sign for the Centers for Disease Control
Lisa Koonin does what they pay her to do.
In spite of all the publicity, in spite of the lawsuit, in spite of the prolifers shouting from the rooftops, in spite of the abortionist discussing the death at an event attended by the very woman whose job it was to notice abortion deaths, the Centers for Disease Control did not notice Latachie's death. Their 1991 Abortion Surveillance Report, published in May of 1995, did not even make any mention of abortion mortality. And when we at Life Dynamics filed a request for information about abortion deaths, we found that the CDC counted zero -- count 'em -- zero -- abortion deaths among women of Latachie's race in the 15 - 19 age range. In other words, they didn't even notice.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the CDC failed to notice this highly-publicized death, discussed openly at an event attended by two of their abortion surveillance staffers, exactly what does it take to get them to notice an abortion death? And how can we even pretend to believe that any serious attempt to accurately count abortion deaths was being made?

Watch "The Girl They Didn't Count" on YouTube.