SUMMARY: Anna “Annie” Rice died on September 23, 1912 from abortion complications in the home of Dr. Maximillian Meinhardt in Chicago.Annie RiceOn Monday, September 23, 1912, the body of Anna “Annie” Rice was taken from the Chicago home of Dr. Maximillian Meinhardt to the undertaking establishment of E. I. Harty.
Dr. Henry G. W. Reinshardt, the deputy coroner, went to Harty’s business, saw Annie’s body on the slab.
“What did she die of,” Reinshardt asked Harty.
“To tell you the truth I was about to call up your office on this,” Harty said. “The death certificate says heart failure and acute pneumonia, but the body has been mutilated.”
This struck Reinshardt as fishy. He asked Harty who had signed the death certificate. Harty said, “His name’s just like yours only he begins it with an M.”
“Not Meinhardt? Maximilian Meinshardt, who lives out on Praitt Avenue near the lake? Why, he’s a throat specialist. What would he be doing in a case like this?”
“He’s the man,” the undertaker insisted. “I took this body from his apartments on Sunday night.”
Dr. Reinshardt performed an autopsy and was able to determine that Annie had died of abortion complications, but was unable to determine from examination of the body if the abortion had been self-inflicted or perpetrated by somebody else.
Another deputy coroner, David G. Gillespie, convened a coroner’s jury to investigate the circumstances of the fatal abortion.
Annie had left the home of Mrs. I. C. Zarbell, where she worked as a maid, on September 12. She had asked for the day off because she was feeling ill, and had said that she would return at 5:00 p.m. Mrs. Zarbell never saw her alive again.
From the Zarbell home, Annie went to the home of Mrs. Mary Murphy, a friend of hers. Annie asked Mary to call Mrs. Zarbell and say that she was still feeling ill and would spend the night at the Murphy home.
Annie left the next morning, “in the best of health and spirits,” telling Mary that she was going to visit her sister, Mrs. John Donovan. She never arrived.Investigators were unable to determine where Annie spent the next 24 hours.
On September 15, she went to Meinhart’s home.
Meinhardt, a reputable ear, nose, and throat specialist, said that Annie had arrived on Saturday morning at around 9 a.m., sick with throat trouble and not telling him her name. “Ordinarily,” Meinhardt said, “I would have bade her go to my offices, but her condition was such I did not feel lie asking questions or giving unnecessary orders. I took her to a room where I have an operating chair. I told her to sit in the chair.”
He continued, “I happened to glance at the girl, and was startled. She was in a dead faint. I brought her out of it, but she was weak and Mrs. Meinhardt asked her to lie down until she felt better.” Meinhart left the young woman in care of his wife while he went to work at his office.
At around 1 p.m., Meinhardt said, he called his wife and asked about the mysterious girl. Mrs. Meinhardt said that the girl was still there and was very ill. Meinhardt said told his wife he’d come home early to see to his patient.
Meinhardt said that in spite of his intentions, he was delayed by professional obligations at a hospital and didn’t get home until around 8:00 that evening. The mystery patient seemed to be in slightly better condition, but he still didn’t want to send her away when she was so sick so he provided some treatment and allowed her to spend the night.
At around 5:00 on Sunday morning, Meinhardt said, he heard the girl up and about and went to check on her. She had gotten up and dressed herself, but, Meinhardt said, she was so ill that he refused to let her leave. In fact, he said, she was so ill he didn’t even want to try to transport her to a hospital. Later in the morning he summoned a cab to take her to the hospital, but at around 10 a.m., just as the cab arrived Annie collapsed, unconscious, onto a couch, let out a couch, and died.
He insisted, even after the autopsy, that the young woman had died of heart failure and pneumonia.
Meinhardt said that he didn’t even get Annie’s name, or attempt to take any kind of medical history, because of how sick she was. Shortly before her death, he said, she had finally told him her name, that she had a sister in the city, and the location of the home where she worked. It had taken him all day, Meinhardt reported, to make contact with Annie’s employer and, through Mrs. Zarbell, Annie’s sister. He had sent Annie’s body to the undertaker her sister had chosen.
Illinois death records indicate that a 25-year-old woman named Anna Rice did indeed die in Chicago on September 15, 1912. This would mean that she had actually left her employer’s home on September 12 and that, appallingly enough, Meinhard had kept her body in his home for over a week before trying to arrange a clandestine burial.
Annie’s sister said that a young man named Thomas Connolly had been keeping company with Annie. When Connolly was questioned, he indicated that insisted that he’d known nothing of the circumstances leading to Annie’s death.
- “Chance Reveals Death Mystery of Annie Rice,” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25, 1912
- “Coroner Tries to Unravel Mystery,” Decatur (IL) Herald, Sept. 26, 1912
- “Finds Annie Rice Victim of Operation,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, Sept. 26, 1912
- “Jail Doctors for Operation Fatal to Wife,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 27, 1915
- “Dr. Meinhardt Again Charged With Abortion, Chicago Daily Tribune, Jun. 13, 1917