Frances Reinhardt

Frances Reinhardt19101919, 30s, chicago, illinois, illegaldoctorOn July 17, 1917, 34-year-old nurse Frances Reinhardt died at Chicago’s County Hospital from septic blood poisoning caused by an abortion which police said had been perpetrated by Dr. A. E. Thomas. However, further investigation revealed that a non-physician identified as W. Thomas had appropriated the name from a retired doctor.

W. Thomas had been able to practice medicine without a license for several years until his ruse was exposed after his arrest for Frances’ death. The real Dr. A. E. Thomas’s brother suspected that the arrested “doctor” had stolen his identity and reported this to the board of health.

The Chicago Daily Tribune notes, “Instead of being a pompous, suave, well fed and dressed charlatan like other quacks who have fallen into the meshes of the law recently, he turned out to be a shaking, wretched, and miserable victim of morphine, whose condition when he was captured bordered on hysteria.”

Upon arrest, Thomas admitted the ruse to police.

Though he was held by the Coroner for Frances’ death, the charges were dropped for a reason I have been unable to determine. I have also found no evidence that anybody else was arrested for the crime.

The real Dr. Thomas, meanwhile, expressed pity for W. Thomas and indicated that he would try to contact him and offer assistance in dealing with his woeful condition.

Frances was a newlywed; she had only been married since June 20 to a man ten years her junior.

Note, please, that with overall public health 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.

In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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


  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database
  • Death certificate
  • “Dr. A. E. Thomas Held to Jury on Murder Charge,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Jul. 22, 1917
  • “Arrested Quack Admits Robbing Doctor of Name,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 6, 1918



  1. 1900s
  2. 1910-1919
  3. 1920s
  4. 1930s
  5. 1940s
  6. 1950s
  7. 1960s
  8. 1970s
  9. 1980s
  10. 1990s
  11. 19th century
  12. 2000-2009
  13. 20s
  14. 30s
  15. 40s
  16. NAF
  17. abortifacient
  18. abortion
  19. abortion mill
  20. abortion mortality
  21. abortionists
  22. abortionists — female
  23. abortionists — male
  24. alabama
  25. anesthesia
  26. arizona
  27. black women
  28. botched abortion
  29. california
  30. chicago
  31. colorado
  32. connecticut
  33. cover-up
  34. death
  35. deaths
  36. deception
  37. delay in transport
  38. delay in treatment
  39. district of columbia
  40. dumped body
  41. ectopic
  42. embolism
  43. falsifying forms
  44. fetal indications
  45. florida
  46. former criminal abortionist
  47. george tiller
  48. georgia
  49. hemorrhage death
  50. hospitals
  51. illegal – doctor
  52. illegal – midwife
  53. illegal – nurse
  54. illegal – paramedical
  55. illegal – post roe
  56. illegal – unknown
  57. illegal – untrained
  58. illegal abortion
  59. illinois
  60. inadequate documents
  61. inadequate equipment
  62. inadequate resuscitation
  63. incomplete abortion
  64. indiana
  65. infection
  66. kansas
  67. legal abortion
  68. llinois
  69. louisiana
  70. maryland
  71. massachusetts
  72. maternal indications
  73. maternal mortality
  74. michigan
  75. mills
  76. missouri
  77. mortality
  78. national abortion federation
  79. new jersey
  80. new mexico
  81. new york
  82. north carolina
  83. ohio
  84. oklahoma
  85. pennsylvania
  86. planned parenthood
  87. pre-roe legal
  88. previous misconduct
  89. prostaglandin
  90. quackery
  91. questionable stories
  92. ru-486
  93. rupture
  94. saline
  95. secret abortion
  96. self-induced
  97. suicide
  98. teens
  99. texas
  100. wisconsin