Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 30: Two Typical Chicago Abortions, Early 20th Century

Dr. Lillian Hobbs
On April 30, 1917, Mrs. Ruth Lemaire, age 24, died at West Side Hospital in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion. In her deathbed statement she implicated one of Chicago's many physician/abortionists, 50-year-old Dr. Lillian Hobbs. However, the coroner's jury did not place blame on Hobbs, and the case came to naught. Hobbs was later convicted of murder in the abortion deaths of Alda Christopherson and Ellen Matson.

On April 30, 1923, 29-year-old homemaker Emma Herod died in her home from an abortion performed there that day. Another Chicago many physician/abortionists, Dr. Emma J. Warren, age 53, was arrested for the death. On July 15, Warren was indicted for felony murder in Emma's death. Warren had already been implicated in the 1917 abortion death of 27-year-old Annie DeGroote.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

April 14, 1932: Lost in the Shuffle

On April 14, 1932, 21-year-old Isabelle Ferguson died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Eisiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case.

Though both doctors were suspected, only Thacker was charged with murder. Isabelle's widower, S. E. Ferguson, sued Thacker for $10,000. Mr. Ferguson held that Thacker, assisted by his wife, Ida, perpetrated the abortion in their office in the Terminal Building in Oklahoma City on March 25. Mr. Ferguson said that after the Thackers had injured Isabelle, they had taken her to their home and "refused her the right to go to a hospital when she became dangerously ill."

Isabelle left behind a six-month-old daughter.

Both Thackers fled the city and were sought by police.

Thacker and Eisiminger were not ordinary doctors who just did abortions on a few patients. They were abortionists, and quack abortionists at that. Singly or as a pair they were implicated in a string of deaths:

February 26, 1929: Marie Epperson
March 19, 1932: Geraldine Easley
April 3, 1932: Ethel Hestland
April 14, 1932: Isabelle Ferguson
April 15, 1932, Ruth Hall
c. April 19, 1932: Robbie Lou Thompson 
April 24, 1932: Virginia Lee Wyckoff (Eisiminger) and Lennis May Roach 
April 25, 1932: Nancy Joe Lee 

Geraldine Easley, age 19, died on March 19, 1932 in Oklahoma City after admitting to an abortion. Thacker and Eisiminger were both suspected, since they had been implicated in so many other abortion deaths. 

Thacker was sentenced to life in prison for Ruth Hall's death. His attorney announced an immediate motion for an appeal, on the grounds that Thacker's other abortions should not have been admitted as testimony.

  • "Dr. Thacker Defendant In $10,000 Damage Suit," Bartlesville Daily Enterprise, May 5, 1932
  • "Mate of Dead Woman Sues Dr. Thacker," The Oklahoma News, May 5, 1932

April 14: Mystery Abortion in Chicago, 1930

Mamie Ethel Crowell, age 20, was a telephone operator living on Belmont Avenue in Chicago.

Mamie died on April 14, 1930, possibly in the office of Dr. Hans Paulsen, from an abortion performed on her that day. Two days later, Paulsen was booked for manslaughter by abortion. 

The father of the baby, Uriah Denniston, was booked as accessory. 

Paulson was held by the Coroner for murder by abortion. Denniston wasn't mentioned in the verdict. 

On September 1, the indictment was quashed. The source notes "Circumstances suggesting judicial corruption."

Sources: Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, Illinois US Deaths and Stillbirths Index 1916-1947

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

April 13: Safe and Legal in California, 1968

Stella Saenz, age 42, had arranged for a legal abortion in the spring of 1968. At that time, California allowed legal abortions, but only in hospitals. On April 11, she was admitted to Los Angeles County General Hospital with sepsis. Doctors administered penicillin. Stella went into anaphylactic shock; neither she nor the doctors had realized that Stella was allergic to penicillin. Doctors tried to treat both the infection and Stella's reaction to the penicillin, to no avail. She died on April 13. The California Department of Public Health classified Stella's death as both a drug reaction death and a legal abortion death.

Unfortunately, when the Cemetery of Choice Wiki was closed down, I lost access to my original source documents.

April 13: A Repeat Offender in Early 20th Century Chicago

According to the Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database, on April 13, 1909, Stella Kelly, a 28-year-old waitress, died of septicemia at a hospital in Chicago, from an abortion that had been perpetrated around March 5. Louise Actenberg, age 59, sometimes identified as a doctor and sometimes as a midwife, was charged with murder by abortion by a coroner's jury. 

Achtenberg was also implicated in the 1907 abortion death of Dora Swan, the 1909 abortion death of Florence Wright, the 1920 abortion death of Violet McCormick, and the 1924 death of Madelyn Anderson. I can find no record that she was ever incarcerated, which is hardly surprising, given how hospitable Chicago has typically been to the many doctors and midwives who perpetrated abortions in the city.

Unfortunately, when the Cemetery of Choice wiki was closed down, I lost access to my original source documents for Stella's death.

April 13: Self-Induced in New York, 1939

According to the New York Index to Death Certificates, 25-year-old Alice Markowitz Russo died at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY on April 13, 1939. Her cause of death was generalized peritonitis following alleged self-induced abortion. I have been unable to find any other information about Alice's death.

Monday, April 11, 2022

April 11: Safe and Legal in New Jersey, 1991

On April 6, 1991, "Terri," age 34, had an abortion at a doctor's office in the 1100 block of Summit Avenue in Union City, New Jersey. A nurse called the police saying that they needed emergency help for an unconscious patient. According to the police report, the doctor had already left the facility when the nurse called for help. Terri was taken to the hospital and placed on life support. She was pronounced dead on April 11, 1991.

Unfortunately, I lost my source document for Terri's death when the Cemetery of Choice wiki closed.

April 11: Benevolence To Young Men, Death to Young Women

A bald, middle-aged white man wearing dark-rimmed round eyeglasses and a grim facial expression
Dr. Guy E. Brewer
Doris Jones, a 20-year-old mother of two, died April 11, 1935, from complications of a criminal abortion perpetrated on April 3. 

Dr. Guy E. Brewer, a 53-year-old bachelor known for his benevolence toward college students, was fingered as the culprit by Doris' husband, Victor. 

Brewer was a quiet, small-town doctor in Garber, Oklahoma and immensely popular for his benevolence in putting local young men through college.

Doris' 22-year-old husband, Victor, a grocery clerk, had not known about the abortion until after Doris took ill. He reported the deadly abortion to police, whereupon his employer retaliated by firing him.

Victor at least had the company of other bereaved families whose loved ones had died from abortions perpetrated by Brewer. Hermoine Fowler, a 20-year-old college student, Wanda Lee Gray, age 20, Myrtle Rose, age 21, and Elizabeth Shaw, age 23, evidently died in early June of 1935.

Brewer pleaded guilty to all six deaths but only got a slap on the wrist -- six four-year sentences, to run concurrently.

April 11: Delayed Transport Leads to Death in Texas, 1984

A slightly overweight middle-aged white man with dark hair, wearing a suit and tie and enormous aviator-style sunglasses
Dr. Raymond Showery
Abortionist Raymond E. Showery was out on bail appealing a murder conviction when he performed the safe, legal abortion that killed 28-year-old Mickey Apodaca on April 11, 1984.

Mickey, a divorced mother of four, went to Showery's Southside Medical Center in El Paso for an abortion on the morning of April 11, 1984. She was about 19 weeks pregnant. She was brought back to the procedure room at 2 p.m. Showery spent 45 minutes to an hour performing the abortion.

During the abortion, Showery tore a 2 1/2 inch hole in Mickey's uterus and severed a uterine artery. Mickey hemorrhaged for two yours before she was transferred to a hospital, where she died during an emergency hysterectomy.

A grand jury handed down an indictment for involuntary manslaughter in Mickey's death. They determined that Showery had inadequately trained staff assisting him, had not properly repaired the hole he had torn in Mickey's uterus, and delayed transfer to a hospital.  

Showery was held pending $1 million dollars bail while awaiting trial in Mickey's death. While he was in prison, local pro-choicers rallied outside with signs asserting that Showery was "a good man" and that he "helps the poor." The fact that he helped Mickey Apodaca straight into an early grave was lost on them.

The charges were dropped in 1987, though Showery remained incarcerated for the murder of the baby.


Saturday, April 09, 2022

A Mysterious Death in Early 20th Century Chicago

 In the morning of April 10, 1912, 38-year-old Mrs. Grace Peters died at Columbus Hospital in Chicago. She had been taken to the hospital after having taken very ill in her home on April 4.

When asked who had perpetrated the abortion, Grace refused to say. There was some conjecture that she had perpetrated the abortion herself.

I have lost my original source on Grace's death, and my second source, "Criminal Operations are Fatal to Two Women," The Inter Ocean, April 22, 1912, indicates that her date of death was actually April 21.