Gertrude Pitkanenabortionists, abortionistsfemaleOn August 1, 1929, 23-year-old schoolteacher Violet Morse, of Anaconda, Montana, died from a botched abortion. Her death certificate was signed by Gertrude Pitkanen (pictured), who was listed as the attending doctor even though Pitkanen was actually a surgical nurse and a chiropractor. Pitkanen attributed Violet’s death to myocarditis, a heart condition.
Violet’s father requested a coroner’s inquest, which revealed that Violet had actually died of complications of an induced abortion. Pitkanen insisted that she had only been called to Violet’s bedside after her death. With no way to verify that Pitkanen had performed the abortion, she was simple censured for failing to notify proper officials about the death, as well as for falsifying the death certificate.
Pitkanen, born in 1878 in Lincoln, Nebraska, completed her nurse’s training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She moved to Butte in 1907, and was one of the first surgical nurses at St. James Community Hospital, assisting her husband, Dr. Gustavus Pitkanen. Dr. Pitkanen was an abortionist until he was jailed for sedition in 1917, whereupon his wife took up the curette.
Pitkanen was also charged with the abortion deaths of Margie Fraser and Hilja Johnson. A woman who was a student nurse at St. James Hospital in Butte remembered Pitkanen’s victims. “They died horrible deaths from infection,” she told a reporter from the Montana Standard.
The 1930 census shows Gertrude living with the evidently no longer imprisoned Gustav, along with two preschool-age girls identified as “adopted daughters.”This is particularly creepy in light of the female Pitkanen’s side business as a “baby broker.” The children who passed through her hands, “Gertie’s Babies,” have even established an online clearinghouse to find each other.
I found this strange ad for what appears to be a child care or preschool center run by Pitkanen. I’m still unsure what to make of it: