Ida Vierow

Ida Vierow20s, illinois, 1900s, illegalmidwifeSUMMARY: Ida Viero, age 28, died on January 6, 1905 after an abortion perpetrated in Chicago by two midwives.

On January 6, 1905, a young woman was found dead in a ditch near Dunning, Illinois. The hunters who had stumbled across the body quickly notified the police. The dead woman was clad in a light shirtwaist; a black skirt, patched and too big for her; shoes that were too big for her; a shawl; and a fascinator hat.

IdaVieroHeadshot.jpgThe body was taken to an undertaking establishment, where it remained until nearly a month later, when the dead woman was identified by her siblings as 28-year-old Ida Vierow, who had been employed as a domestic servant in the home of former County Commissioner O. D. Allen. She had been missing since leaving the Allen home on January 1, telling the Allens that she was going to visit her parents in St. Louis, though her parents actually lived on a farm near Proviso.

It was determined that she had died January 6, 1905, from an abortion performed in Chicago.

Two midwives, Amella Maichrowicz and Anna Becker, were arrested, along with Maichrowicz’s husband, Joseph. The Maichrowiczs, who ran an unlicensed hospital in Melrose Park, were arrested near the end of February.

Becker turned state’s evidence, saying that she had been at the home when Ida was there. When the clothing Ida had been wearing when she was discovered was presented to her, Becker identified an item as one she had given to Maichrowicz as a gift. Ida hadn’t been wearing a single item of clothing that she’d owned herself when her body was found. Her sister, Mrs. Kobernus, said, “When my sister left the Allen house she wore a black silk dress, a tan coat, a black hat and veil, and a set of furs.”

Police began a search for “a hanger on at Chicago racetracks, last heard from at Oakland, Cal., who is known to have been attentive to the girl, and who is said to have written her several letters after he left Chicago.” A total of 24 letters had been found at the Allen home. The last, that had arrived on January 4, addressed her as “my dear wife” and “my sweetheart.” It was signed, “Your true love forever.”

Ida’s abortion was atypical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was not performed by 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, seeAbortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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


  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive Database
  • “Think Girl Was Murdered,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 30, 1905
  • “Working on Dunning Mystery,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 31, 1905
  • “Held for Girl’s Death,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 20, 1905
  • “Held on Serious Charge,” Belvidere Daily Republican, Feb. 20, 1905
  • “A Sad Case,” Oak Park Reporter Argus, Feb. 4, 1905
  • “Ida Vierow,” Oak Park Reporter Argus, Feb. 25, 1905
  • “Turns State’s Evidence,” Chicago Inter Ocean, Apr. 23, 1905






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