Ida Coakley

Ida Coakleycalifornia, illegaldoctor, 20s, abortionistsmaleSummary: Ida Coakley, age 24, died November 22, 1897 by an abortion blamed on Dr. Samuel Hall of Irvington, CA.

On November 23, 1897, a funeral procession in Irvington, California, was stopped just as about the body was being loaded onto a ferry.

The deceased was 24-year-old Ida Coakley,a homemaker who had only been married to John Coakley, a farmer, for two months.

IdaCoakleySanFranCall25Nov1897.jpgJohn reported that he’d taken her to the office of Dr. Samuel Hall the previous day to be treated for a heart problem.He had left the doctor’s office and returned that evening only to find his wife dead. Her body was promptly removed to a funeral establishment.

A night watchman at a nearby bank had found the timing of the departure from the funeral establishment fishy and had contacted the police, hence the interruption of the funeral. Ida’s body was taken for an autopsy, and a coroner’s jury convened.

They concluded “That Mrs. Ida Coakley, aged 24 years, nativity California, occupation housewife, residence Irvington, Alameda county, came to her death November 22, 1897, at 14 McAllister street, from septicaemia, following an attempt at abortion; and we further find that deceased came to her death from the effects of a criminal operation performed by Dr. Samuel H. Hall, and we further find that John Coakley was an accessory to the same crime.”

The verdict was signed by the majority, though a minority asserted that they did not believe sufficient evidence had been presented to indicate that Hall was the guilty party. The coroner’s testimony had left no doubt that Ida’s death had been from an abortion.

Hall was arrested when he arrived in San Jose to visit his wife and daughter. He said that he’d not known that Ida had been pregnant when she and her husband had come to his office on Saturday. He’d treated her with morphine and nitroglycerin. On Monday see seemed okay, he said, but he left her for a while only to return to his office and find her dead. He said that he assumed that she must have died from an aneurysm.

John Coakley admitted that he had taken Ida to Hall and asked if an abortion would be safe for her. When Hall had assured him that it would be safe, John paid $50 and Hall promptly took Ida into a procedure room. A few minutes later, Hall returned, told John that Ida had been fine, and sent her home.

Dr. Hall’s daughter, Josephine Wells, testified that Ida had come to the McAllister Street house at about noon on the Saturday before her death. Hall had asked to use Josephine’s room for a couple of days to care for Ida, who Hall told Josephine suffered heart disease. Ida was sitting in a chair by the fire the following Monday, where she died at about 6 o’clock in the evening.

The charges against John Coakley were dropped during the first trial in order to loosen his tongue against Hall.

John Coakley proved useless during the trial, however. He broke down on the stand but the prosecution was unable to get him to say anything significant. The trial resulted in a hung jury, voting seven to five for acquittal.

A second trial against Hall ended in acquittal after Coakley fled the state, leaving the prosecution minus the prime witness.

Hall had been twice tried for the 1891 abortion death of Ida Shaddock. The first trial ended in a hung jury and the second, three years later and after several key witnesses had moved away or died, resulted in acquittal.


  • CoakleyMissing SF Call 30 March 1898.png“Death by Malpractice,” San Francisco Call, Nov. 24, 1897
  • “Hall and Coakley Accused of Murder,” San Francisco Tribune, Nov. 30, 1897
  • “Coakley Turns State’s Evidence,” San Francisco Call, Jan. 22, 1898
  • “Coakley is Now Missing,” San Francisco Call, Mar. 31, 1898
  • “Dr. Hall Acquitted,” San Francisco Call, Apr. 1, 1898
  • “Jury Couldn’t Agree,” Evening Sentinel, Jan. 29, 1898
  • “Could Not Agree,” Los Angeles Herald, Jan. 28, 1898
  • Untitled clipping, The Oakland Tribune, Jan. 21, 1898
  • “John Coakley Cannot Be Found,” Oakland Tribune, March 30, 1898
  • “Trial of Dr. Samuel Hall, San Francisco Call, Jan. 21, 1898
  • “Dr. Hall is Again Under Suspicion,” San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 24, 1897
  • “Dr. Hall Captured,” San Francisco Call, Nov. 25, 1897

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