Sarah Sullivan

SUMMARY: Sarah E. Sullivan, age 18, died in Boston on or about May 30, 1876 from peritonitis after an abortion perpetrated by “doctress” Fanny B. Drake.

ChiTrib7Jun1876.jpgFanny B. Drake was charged with manslaughter in the 1876 abortion death of Sarah E. Sullivan of Woburn, Massachusetts. “Miss Sullivan was one of the prettiest girls in Woburn, and Bibber, who was the cause of her disgrace, had fled.”

On about May 8, Sarah and a woman named Lucy Wyman, aka Lucy Dow, rented lodgings at Drake’s house on D Street in South Boston. Sarah used the name Lizzie Dunham.

On the 12th, Wyman/Dow rented alternative lodgings for herself and Sarah from the wife of Isaac Rhodes of Groton Street. Isaac, thinking something was fishy, alerted the police. Somehow the women got word that Isaac had reported them so they returned to the Drake house.

Sarah had been engaged to plumber Albert Bibber, aka Albert May, for three years. He had brought her to Boston for the abortion — likely because, unbeknownst to Sarah, he was married and had children.

On May 18 Bibber got a covered carriage and brought Sarah from the Drake home to her family’s home on May 18. Sarah took to her bed, finally dying on May 26 or 29, according to the Boston Post, or on May 30, according to Massachusetts death records. Bibber fled.

An autopsy found that “she was unmistakably the victim of an operation for abortion.

Around the time of Sarah’s death, it was discovered that Drake had also perpetrated an abortion on Mary A. Fuller. Mary died on May 30, according to my best calculations.

Massachusetts death records show an 18-year-old Sarah E. Sullivan who died on May 30, 1876. I can’t read the handwriting for the cause of death entry, though at a quick glance it looks like “peritonitis.” That Elizabeth is the daughter of Thomas V. (born in New York City) and what I read as Arethusa J. (born in Woburn).


  • “Woburn,” Boston Post, Jun. 3, 1876
  • “Crime,” Boston Post, Jun. 6, 1876
  • “Depravity at the Hub,” The Chicago Tribune, Jun. 7, 1876
  • Untitled clipping, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, Jun. 8, 1876