Lucy Hagenowabortionists, abortionistsfemaleLucy / Louise Hagenow was a prolific abortionist during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She was born in Germany, most likely in November of 1848, and immigrated to the US in 1869.
She used the names Louise and Louisa primarily in San Francisco, switching to Lucy some time after having relocated to Chicago. And though she was frequently identified — both by herself and by others — as Mrs. Hagenow, I’ve found no evidence that she ever married.
Hagenow first shows up in American records in the 1878 San Francisco city directory, where she is listed as a physician at 812 Howard Street. Although she was clearly living and working in San Francisco from at least 1877 through 1889, she claimed to have been an 1879 graduate of Missouri Medical College.
Ad showing Hagenow in San Francisco in 1877
She was licensed in California and Illinois, and perhaps in Missouri and New York as well, but — not surprisingly — when the Chicago Medical Society investigated her they found that there was no Lucy Hagenow ever enrolled in the medical school that supposedly issued her diploma.
She turned up in Santa Clara County, California, where she was arrested in 1885 for practicing medicine without a license. (Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal, January 1886)
The first death attributed to Hagenow was that of Louise Derchow in San Francisco, who died in August of 1886. A total of three trials kept ending in hung juries, the last being in 1888.
Just four months after her case was dismissed, Hagenow was arrested for the death of Annie Dories, and later that month for the death of a woman identified as either Alice or Abbie Richards. Two other people died under
Hagenow’s ad in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 28, 1883
suspicious circumstances that month. Emma Dep died at home after a stay at Hagenow’s practice, but for some reason the coroner decided to believe Emma’s story that the abortion was self-induced. Franz Krone, and elderly man, died as an inpatient at Hagenow’s hospital, and his stash of valuables and cash was never accounted for.
In 1889, the case against Hagenow for Annie Dories’ death was dropped after a third hung jury.
Typical Hagenow ad in Chicago
Hagenow relocated to Chicago, where she drummed up business with veiled advertisements in Chicago daily papers, a typical one reading, “Dr. Louise Hagenow; licensed physician; expert; twentyseven years; female diseases; a new scientific, painless method; no operation; good results; 330 East Division street, near Wells; 10 to 4, 7 to 8.”
Her ads brought her steady business, and she was implicated in the abortion deaths of Minnie Deering in 1891 and Sophia Kuhn in 1892. Later that same year she was implicated in the abortion death of Emily Anderson.
An elderly Hagenow
Hagenow again made headlines in 1896 with the death of Hannah Carlson
, then in 1899 for the death of Marie Hecht
In spite of her legal troubles, Hagenow was making a good living as an abortionist, attracting attention for being the victim of a home invasion robbery that left her elderly mother or sister, Emma Hagenow (sources disagree as to the relationship) beaten into unconsciousness. The thieves had targeted Hagenow’s home because they knew she had valuable jewels. In a strange twist of fate, the burglar, George H. Jacks, was sentenced in the same courtroom where Hagenow herself was being tried for Hannah Carlson’s death.
A brief hiatus ensued beginning at the end of April, 1900, when Hagenow was sentenced to one year to life in prison for Marie Hecht’s death. She was paroled after serving only a year, and during her next period of freedom was held to the grand jury eleven times for patient deaths, including making headlines for a death a year from 1905 to 1907:
On December 17, 1907, Annie Horvatich’s death finally won Hagenow a trip to Joliet, ans with it a degree of national notoriety, spawning headlines like “Human Monster is Behind Bars” (Bellingham (WA) Herald, November 30, 1907) and “Old Woman Kills Ten Thousand Persons” (Seattle Times, November 30, 1907). This latter headline’s sub-head “Lucy Hagenow of Chicago has Criminal Record that Surpasses Anything of a Similar Nature in World’s History,” was a bit premature.
Though Hagenow “pleaded innocence in the same hysterical manner that had characterized her actions many times when taken before the authorities for similar offenses,” she was sentenced to twenty years, a sentence that lead the Rockford Gazette to declare, “Death Trail is Ended.”
The sigh of relief was premature.
Hagenow was freed from Joliet on October 29, 1917, having served less than half of her sentence. She went straight back to business, landing 22-year-old Pauline Albrecht in the hospital fighting for her life. Pauline, writing in pain in her hospital bed, told police, “I didn’t know what I was doing. A friend told me of her and I went to see her. I just asked for an examination; and she said she must operate.” With no cash on hand, Pauline gave Hagenow a $400 diamond ring.
In her jail cell and pressed by reporters, Hagenow snapped, “I didn’t do anything to her. There wasn’t anything the matter with her. She asked me for advice and I told her to go home and forget it.”
“Yes, I’ve been arrested before — what’s that to you? Yes, I’ve served time in Joliet — why do you blame me for these things? If these fool girls would take care of themselves they wouldn’t have these things done, would they?”
“There’s lot of midwives in Chicago making a living the way I do. I’ve been performing operations for fifty years. Since I got out of prison this last time, though, business is booming. Everybody’s doing it — no one wants babies; they come to us — it’s our business to help them.”
“I didn’t hurt this girl. She went home and caught cold. Then she called me up and told me she had taken some pills. I don’t know anything about that, do I? Why arrest me?”
Perhaps she had been arrested because Pauline’s ring was found in her possession, which certainly corroborated the ailing woman’s story. Fortunately, Pauline survived her ordeal, and Hagenow lay low for a while.
Nina PierceThen, suddenly in 1925, it was as if something snapped and Hagenow began making up for lost time. Five young women lost their lives at Lucy Hagenow’s hands that year: Lottie Lowy
, Nina H. Pierce
, Jean Cohen
, Bridget Masterson
, and Elizabeth Welter
. Hagenow followed up in 1926 with her final patient death: Mary Moorehead
That makes a total of 17 abortion deaths I could positively identify for which Hagenow was implicated in some way. She served about a year for the death of Marie Hecht, and was incarcerated for the death of Annie Horvatich until 1917. Though she was sentenced to prison for the death of Mary Moorehead, when she appealed the Supreme Court of Illinois 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, the Associated Press noted, was nearly deaf and “may not have heard. She muttered something, and shambled laboriously from the room.”
As near as I can determine, Hagenow died September 26, 1933, in Norwood Park, Cook County, Illinois. Her occupation on her death record was given as “midwife.”
Deaths of her patients must have been a common occurrence, since undertaker W. J. Freckleton, sent by one husband to collect the body of his wife for burial, testified that he had complained to Hagenow how difficult it was to get the body down the narrow staircase; Hagenow had replied that her usual undertaker never had any trouble getting bodies out.
An article entitled, “Another Victim Points Finger at Dr. Hagenow,” Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1922, notes two seriously ill women hospitalized in Chicago:
“As soon as he learned of Dr. Hagenow’s arrest in connection with the Albrecht case, W.H.H. Miller, director of the department of registration and education, ordered an investigation as to how the woman, on parole from the penitentiary for murder, obtained another license to practice. Charges will be filed against her with the state board, which has the power to revoke the license.”
- “Jacks is Sentenced to Joilet,” Chicago Tribune, July 24, 1898
- “Death Trail is Ended,” Rockford Gazette, April 20, 1908
- “Maurin Remanded,” Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 13983, 13 December 1887
- Germans to America Passenger Data file, 1850-1897