SUMMARY: Louise Derchow, age 23, died August 27, 1887 after an abortion at the San Francisco maternity hospital of Dr. Lucy “Louisa” Hagenow.Lucy “Louise” Hagenow
Louise Derchow or Dechow, alias Perkelhoff, is the first known victim of notorious criminal abortionist Dr. Lucy Hagenow (pictured).
Henry Peckelhoff, a German barkeeper, testified that he and Louise Derchow, who sometimes used Peckelhoff’s last name, had lived together for several months in the fall of 1887.
Louise, age 23, was a native of Germany.
On August 9, 1887 she told Peckelhoff that she was pregnant, and he told her to go to Dr. Hagenow’s “maternity hospital” at 19 Twelfth Street in San Francisco to be examined. “She told him a few days before her death that she had met with a mishap there.”
She died about 1 a.m. On Monday, August 27.
Peckelhoff went to the undertaker at about 2 a.m., saying that he needed a burial for his wife, who had just died at Hagenow’s practice. The undertaker’s assistant removed Louise’s body at about 3 a.m., then went to get a death certificate from Hagenow. The Assistant Secretary of the Health Department refused to issue a burial permit with a death certificate signed by Hagenow because of her illegal practice.
The undertaker’s assistant and Hagenow went looking for Dr. F. F. DeDerky, who had also attended Louise, but couldn’t find him, so Hagenow’s assistant forged DeDerky’s signature in order to get the health department to accept the death certificate and issue the burial permit, which was finally released at 3 p.m. The funeral was held at 4:00.
The coroner’s jury confirmed the abortion death and called for further investigation. The City Physician performed the autopsy at the Odd Fellow’s Cemetery on September 1 and found what was termed “conclusive evidence” of an abortion, with inflammation caused by an instrument. The three other physicians who witnessed the autopsy concurred, including one doctor who testified later that her organs were decomposed and that her uterus was badly inflamed.
During the Grand Jury investigation, Louise’s former employer, William Steinhart, testified that Louise had worked at his home for three months as a domestic servant, but while he was away, she left and he heard nothing about her again until he learned of her death on the 23rd. Nobody in his family had been aware that she’d been pregnant. Mrs. Dallemand, sister-in-law of Mrs. Steinhart, concurred, saying that Louisa had left the house on August 10, saying that she was going to San Jose and would be back the next day. She had seemed to be in good health.
Undertaker George H. Fredericks testified that Peckelhoff had come to him between midnight and 2 a.m. on August 22 saying that his wife had died and he needed to have her buried quickly because his boss was angry that he’d taken so much time away from work. He confirmed the testimony of the health department worker about the refusal to issue a burial certificate based on a death certificate signed by Hagenow.
De Derky testified that he’d been called to treat Louise on the 19th and 20th of August, and she showed all the symptoms of peritonitis, which he was told was due to a miscarriage a few days earlier.
Henry Peckelhoff testified that he was engaged to Louise and recommended that she go to a doctor “when she told him of her condition,” but said that he had not advise an abortion or even know that one had been done. He’d paid Hagenow $75 for the week Louise had spent at the house, and Louise had seemed not to be suffering when he’d visited her.
D.C. Buckley, a reporter, testified that he’d gone to see Hagenow on August 27 to discuss the girl that he’d heard had died of an abortion and been hastily buried afterward. Hagenow refused to tell him anything, referring him to the undertaker if he wanted information — though afterward she admitted that the girl had died at her house from an abortion she had performed on herself.
Buckley also spoke with Dr. de Derky, who said that he’d treated Louise at Hagenow’s establishment after being told that she’d suffered a miscarriage five days earlier. He denied any signs that an abortion had been performed.
Hagenow testified before the Grand Jury, stating that she ran a general hospital and that she had graduated the Medical College of California in 1876, and had been practicing since then. Hagenow said she’d known Louise for the ten days before her death. “She came to my house at 19 Twelfth street on August 10th. I opened the door and she fell in and could not rise. Her clothing was wet with blood. I carried her up stairs with the assistance of one of my servants and took off her clothes and put her to bed. Two hours after she came in she was delivered of a four-months-old fetus. She told me she was a married woman. She told me the miscarriage was the result of a fall she had sustained the day before. She did not appear to suffer greatly after, but wanted to go home.”About six days after she came, Hagenow said, Louise started to show signs of peritonitis. She insisted that she had never performed an abortion on Louise, but admitted that she was convicted of practicing medicine without a license in San Jose.
Hagenow’s attorney referred to her as “a learned woman in her profession”and called forth some character witnesses.
The coroner’s jury deliberated for about an hour before concluding that Louise had indeed died from an abortion performed by person or persons unknown, and they recommended a thorough police investigation.
All told, Hagenow was tried three times in Louise’s death, and acquitted in the third trial, just around the time she was being investigated in the abortion deaths of Annie Dorris and Abbia Richards, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow’s maternity home. The third acquittal was largely attributed to the death of the state’s star witness, a journalist who had originally broken the story.
Hagenow relocated to Chicago and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including:
- 1891: Minnie Deering
- 1892: Sophia Kuhn and Emily Anderson
- 1896: Hannah Carlson
- 1899: Marie Hecht
- 1905: May Putnam
- 1906: Lola Madison
- 1907: Annie Horvatich
- 1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, Bridget Masterson, and Elizabeth Welter
- 1926: Mary Moorehead
- “A Crime Exposed,” Daily Alta Californian, Sept. 4, 1887
- “Miss Derchow’s Fate,” San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 4, 1887
- “Mrs. Dr. Hangenow. She is Placed on Trial for Murder,” San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 6, 1887
- “Louise Duchow’s Death,” The Evening News, Apr. 7, 1888
- Pacific Coast News, Los Angeles Herald, Volume 30, Number 23, 25 Apr. 1888
- “Mrs. Hagenow’s Case,” The San Jose Evening News, Jan. 30, 1888
- “Dr. Hagenow. She is Adquitted of the Charger of the Murder of Louise Derchow,” San Jose Evening News, Apr. 25, 1888
- “The Death of a Young Girl Which Should Warn Others,” Reno Evening Gazette, Aug. 21, 1888