Annie Horvatich20s, 1900s, chicago, illegaldoctor, illinoisSUMMARY: Annie Horvatich, age 26, died on May 6, 1907 after an abortion perpetrated by Chicago physician Lucy Hagenow.
Thursday, May 2, 1907, started out as an ordinary day for 26-year-old Austrian immigrant Annie Horvatich of Justine Street in Chicago. She did the family washing in the morning, then in the afternoon took the streetcar to the bank to withdraw $25.
A Planned Stay at Dr. Hagenow’s PracticeAbortionist Lucy HagenowAt 6:30 that evening, she asked her new husband, Michael, to accompany her to the home of Dr. Louise Hagenow. It was late by the time they arrived. Though she didn’t bring a change of clothes or any type of overnight bag, she asked Mike to look after her children (She had three from a previous marriage.) and to come and see her on Saturday.
Mike, who told his story through a translator, said that he didn’t know Hagenow and didn’t know what his wife’s purpose was in the visit — a claim that isn’t held up by the letter he says he got from her the next day:
- Beloved Mike — I let you know everything is well. Slept very well. Take care of the children. Tell Fanny not to go outside unless she puts a cap and coat on her. If she won’t, don’t leave her out. You see how she is. You didn’t have any coffee at home and you were mad this morning. I will take care you won’t be angry. Don’t be afraid. There won’t be any serious happenings. Will be in the house that day until I go home. Come over Saturday afternoon as you said, and tell the children where you are going, so that they won’t go away from the house. Tell them I will come back with you. Nothing else. With love and regards to the children. A.H.
So evidently Mike knew enough about Annie’s purpose that she would have to assuage his fears that there might be “serious happenings”.
Annie Sickens and Dies
Mike went to Hagenow’s home on Saturday afternoon and found his wife sitting up in bed, apparently in her underclothes. She told him she was unwell and sent him home, saying she would not be returning home until Monday.
On Sunday, Mike got a phone call to go to Hagenow’s place. He arrived at 10 p.m. to find his wife very sick, abed in a different room than the one he’d first seen her in. A Dr. Rasmussen was also present. Annie indicated that she wanted to send for a doctor from South Chicago, but Hagenow insisted that it was too late to bother the other doctor.
Mike remained at Annie’s side during the night, noting that by morning she appeared to be much worse. He went to the home of Mary Galavitch, who could speak English and thus serve as a translator. When Mike and Mary arrived, Hagenow met them and told them that Annie had died at 5 a.m.
The Business With the Undertaker
Hagenow gave Mike a business card for a neighborhood undertaker. Mike indicated that he’d prefer an undertaker that he knew. Hagenow then sent Mike to Rasmussen’s office to get a death certificate, which indicated that Annie had died from pneumonia and bronchitis.
Mike sought out an undertaker named W.J. Freckleton, who went to Hagenow’s home to pick up Annie’s body at around 5 p.m. He said that Hagenow told him that she ran a private hospital, and that he should return after dark to take Annie’s body out the back way. He returned at about 9 p.m. with an assistant, and found it very difficult to get Annie’s body down the narrow staircase. He said that Hagenow told him that her regular undertaker never reported any trouble getting bodies out down that staircase.
The Truth Comes Out
The funeral was held, Annie buried, and it seemed as if Mike and the children would be getting on with their lives as best they could. That changed on May 13. The Cook County coroner, attended by Annie’s brother, John Sneller, exhumed Annie’s body. Dr. E.R. LeCount, teacher at Rush Medical College, Dr. Warren J. Hunter, coroner’s physician, and Dr. Rudolph W. Holmes, specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, performed a post mortem examination. What they found was shocking.
Annie’s lungs had been quite healthy and normal — as were most of her internal organs. She clearly had not died of pneumonia.
It was in her pelvis that the true cause of death was found. Her uterus was lacerated, with the top of the uterus torn nearly off, causing fatal peritonitis. From the condition of her uterus, the doctors gauged that she had been about four months pregnant, but there was no sign of the fetus, which evidently had been successfully killed, removed, and disposed of.
Everyone participating in the post-mortem agreed that Annie had been healthy prior to the assault on her reproductive organs. She had no signs whatsoever of any reason to think an abortion would have been necessary to preserve her life.
Hagenow’s Claims Ring Hollow
Hagenow admitted that Annie had come to her place on the 2nd and died on the 6th, but insisted that Annie had been bleeding vaginally upon her arrival. She insisted that Annie told her she had seen a doctor on the South Side who had “brought her around” (i.e. done an abortion). Hagenow insisted that her examination of Annie had found no signs of injury, just vaginal bleeding which she diagnosed as pneumonia. She said she had charged Annie $15 to treat her for the pneumonia, then summoned Dr. Raumussen, whom she (Hagenow) knew had been charged in the past as an abortionist.Hagenow’s adHagenow’s claim that she hadn’t performed an abortion on Annie wasn’t very credible, given her history. She advertised consistently in Chicago daily papers, ads reading, “Dr. Louise Hagenow; licensed physician; expert; twenty seven years; female diseases; a new scientific, painless method; no operation; good results….” ” In short, she was an open and known abortionist.
Also entered into evidence in the trial was the dying declaration of Marie Hecht, who died from one of Hagenow’s “scientific, painless” abortions in 1899, as testified to by the police officer who had taken the statement.
Likewise entered into evidence was the testimony of a doctor who Hagenow had brought in to help try to save the life of a young woman Hagenow had disemboweled in the process of an abortion sometime ten or fifteen years prior to the trial over Annie’s death — which would mean this woman could have been Minnie Deering (1891), Sophia Kuhn or Emily Anderson (1892), Hannah Carlson (1896), or another as of yet unidentified woman.
A police officer also testified about taking the dying declaration of Lola Madison.
To top it off, during cross-examination, Hagenow admitted involvement in the abortion death of Hannah Carlson.
An Appeal Denied, a Sentence Pronounced
The appeals court noted, “had the evidence shown that Annie Horavitch was the only pregnant woman whom [Hagenow] had caused to miscarry or abort, it might not have been unreasonable to presume that she did so in good faith and for the purpose of saving the woman’s life. …. [but for] 27 years [Hagenow] had been constantly engaged in producing miscarriages and causing abortions… [and] she kept a place for the treatment and care of women upon whom miscarriages and abortions had been caused and performed; … she was surrounded at her house by men and women engaged in the business of causing and producing criminal miscarriages and abortions, and … she had caused the death of several women upon whom she had caused miscarriages and produced abortions within a few years prior to her indictment for causing the death of Annie Horvatich ….”
Hagenow, nearly 60 years old at the time of her trial, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for Annie’s death.Nina PierceHagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie Dorris, Abbia Richards, and Emma Dep in San Francisco, would be released from prison to be implicated in the abortion deaths of Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, Elizabeth Welter, and Mary Moorehead.
Hagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a physician.
Note, please, that with issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
- 236 Ill. 524, 86 N.E. 370, People v. Hagenow;
- Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database;
- “Woman Guilty of Murder”, Telluride Daily Journal, Nov. 30, 1907
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