Beulah Pickerill

Beulah Pickerill1920s, 20s, chicago, illinois, illegaldoctorSUMMARY: On August 13, 1922, Beulah Pickerill, age 21, died at Chicago’s Mid West Hospital from complications of an abortion for which two physicians were arrested.

Beulah Pickerill, a Texas native, was 21 years old and living with her parents in the Louisville, Kentucky area. She worked there as a bookkeeper, but had other plans for her life. Beulah and her friend Floy L. Butler had ambitions for the stage, and on July 29 they left Louisville for Chicago. The presumption at home was that the two young women planned to develop careers as vaudeville performers, though the story Beulah had told her family was that she was going to visit friends.

An unidentified man, described as “wealthy and prominent,” had arranged the journey. Whether he spirited the young woman to Chicago purely for the abortion or in order to support her dreams is unclear.

Those dreams died along with Beulah at Chicago’s Mid West Hospital on August 13. After authorities determined that Beulah had died from complications of an abortion, two physicians, Vincent Filletti and Michael Galgano, were held by the coroner and indicted for felony murder. In her deathbed statement, Beulah had identified Filletti as the abortionist.

Upon arrival in Chicago, Beulah and Floy consulted with a physician on Chicago’s Northside, but he refused to do the abortion himself, instead referring her to Filletti and Galgano. The friends went to Fillette’s office on August 7 to make the arrangements and negotiate the price of $200. Beulah wired to Lousiville, presumably to the “wealthy and prominent” man, for the money. The abortion was perpetrated on August 9.

Floy, along with Patrick J. Owens, the manager of Chicago’s Clarendon Hotel, were held as accessories. A physician identified only as Dr. Peterson was held as a witness.

Beulah’s sister, Hattie, at the behest of their parents Charles and Amanda (Horn) Pickerill, took her Beulah’s body home to Big Clifty, Kentucky, to be buried.

Beulah’s abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive
  • Death certificate
  • “2 Doctors Held in Girl’s Death,” Detroit Free Press, August 17, 1922
  • “Physicians Charged With Murder,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 17, 1922
  • “2 Chicago Doctors Held In Louisville Girl’s Death,” Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal, September 21, 1922


BeulahPickerill DeathCert.jpg

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