Nina Pierce

Nina Pierce1920s, 20s, chicago, illegaldoctorSUMMARY: Nina Harding Pierce, a 22-year-old newlywed, died February 15, 1925 after an abortion perpetrated in Chicago by Dr. Lucy Hagenow

NinaPierceDecaturHerald22Feb1925.jpgNina Harding PierceIn the Spring of 1924, Robert and Nina Jepson Harding of East St. Louis, Illinois, announced the engagement of their 21-year-old daughter, Nina Ruth Harding, to Logan Franklin Pierce, son of Chambers and Amy Barnes Pierce.

Mr. Harding, an attorney by training, had done quite well for himself dealing in real estate, and Mr. Pierce had become wealthy as a banker.

The young couple had met at the University of Illinois at Champagne, where Nina was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and Logan of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity. No objection was made to the engagement, though Nina’s family wanted their daughter to finish school before she got married.

loganpierce.jpgLogan Pierce
A year later and quite abruptly, Nina and Logan ran away to Chicago and were married in a private ceremony performed by Rev. S. D. White of St. Paul’s Methodist Church. They took up lodging in a small furnished room.

Four days later, late in the evening of Valentine’s Day of 1925, Logan Pierce took a gravely ill Nina the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and promptly disappeared, leaving her to die the following night, alone but for the strangers who had fought in vain to save her life. Warrants were quickly issued for the arrest of the flighty husband, and for notorious Chicago abortionist Dr. Lucy Hagenow.

Logan was lying low, fully aware that he was in big trouble. The only immediate traces of him were telephone messages to a private club and his rooming house, asking if a telegram had come from his father.

NinaHarding.jpgNina Ruth Harding
The elder Pierce hurried to Chicago from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where he had been establishing a commercial loan bank. He arranged an attorney for his son. Young Logan, accompanied by the lawyer, turned himself in but utterly refused to answer any questions and at first even to identify the 80-year-old Hagenow, who had already been arrested. At last he admitted that he had accompanied his bride to Hagenow’s practice, but insisted that he hadn’t known about the abortion until she became ill.

Hagenow’s whereabouts, it seems, were never much of a secret, and she was quickly brought in.

For her part, Hagenow admitted that Nina had come to her practice the previous Tuesday or Wednesday, but denied having performed an abortion on her.

Hagenow was held to a Grand Jury on $35,000 bond, and Pierce on $7,500. Hagenow was charged with murder, and Logan as an accessory.

Meanwhile, a heartbroken Robert Harding came to Chicago to collect his daughter’s body and bring her back to East St. Louis for burial.

Hagenow, who had already been implicated of the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow (August, 1887), Annie Dorris (June, 1888), Abbia Richards (June, 1888), and Emma Dep (August, 1888) in San Francisco, would go on to be linked to over a dozen Chicago abortion deaths:

Hagenow was typical of criminal abortionists in that she was a physician.

Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


  • Homicide in Chicago Interactive
  • “Five Day Bride Dies in Chicago,” The Ironwood Daily Globe,” Feb. 16, 1925
  • “Hold Woman in Death of Young Bride,” The Appleton Post Crescent, Feb. 16, 1925
  • “Bride of Five Days Dies From an Operation,” The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Feb. 16, 1925
  • “Woman Held, Man is Sought, in Death of Latter’s 5-Day Bride,” The San Antonio Express, Feb. 17, 1925
  • “Pierce Went With Wife But Did Not Know of Operation,” Rockford (IL) Morning Star, Mar. 6, 1925
  • “Seek Husband in Death of Bride,” The Syracuse Herald, Feb. 16, 1925
  • “Midwife and Young Husband Held for Illegal Operation,” The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Feb. 18, 1925
  • “Rich Chicago Man’s Son Faces Charges,” Galveston Daily News, Feb. 18, 1925
  • “Husband Sought in Bride’s Death,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb. 17, 1925
  • “Await Arrest of Husband in Pierce Case,” Rockford Morning Star, Feb. 7, 1925