Sophia Kuhn

At about 9:00 on the morning of Sunday, September 25, 1892, 30-year-old Sophia Kuhn “died in great agony” at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She had been brought there by ambulance the previous evening from Dr. Louise Hagenow’s practice at 882 West Madison Street.

“That the woman died from the result of a most cruel criminal operation is fairly well established, and an inquest to-day will beyond question reveal the details of what has every appearance of being little less than a butchery.”

Hagenow.jpgDr. Lucy HagenowSophia had been taken to Hagenow’s establishment the previous Thursday from the home of Dr. Ellen (aka Mrs. M. E.) Hellieu. In a statement before her death, Sophie insisted that she had only gone to Hellieu after taking ill from an abortion done elsewhere, and that neither Hellieu nor Hagenow had been responsible. Sophie went as far as to say that she had only been at Hellieu’s home because she’d taken ill in the street nearby.

Hellieu had reportedly gone to the office of Dr.s W. H. Knoll and C. T. McKinney on Saturday, summoning them to Hagenow’s facility.

“The details of the condition in which we found her are horrible,” Dr. Knoll said. They notified the police, provided what care they could, and had Sophia transported to the hospital. “I do not care to say what resulted in her humble state or when it might have been brought about, although there were reasons for concluding that whatever caused the woman’s dying state had been of recent occurrence. I never saw anything like it and somebody must have erred terribly.”

Louise Hagenow and Ellen Hellieu were arrested. Sophia’s father identified them as responsible for his daughter’s death. Sophie, who had been separated from her husband for about two years, had been living with her sister, Mrs. White, at the time of the pregnancy and abortion. Sophie’s brother-in-law, William White, said, “My sister-in-law left home about two weeks ago. She was then complaining of being sick and in trouble. I am certain she did not go to Mrs. Hagenow and the other doctors of her own accord. There was a man in the case who must have persuaded her to submit to an operation.”

While police were interviewing Hagenow, who also used the name Lucy Hagenow, at her practice, Hellieu “rushed breathless into her apartments. When she saw Dr. Hagenow’s interviewer, she exclaimed: ‘Don’t say anything!’ Then she sank exhausted upon a sofa.”

Hagenow had already been implicated in the abortion deaths of Louise Derchow, Annie Dories, Abbie Richards, Emma Dep in San Francisco before relocating to Chicago in 1890.

She was implicated in the abortion deaths of Minnie Deering in 1891. Shortly after Sophie’s death, Hagenow was again arrested, this time for the abortion death of Emily Anderson. Further abortion deaths associated with Hagenow’s Chicago practice include:


  • “Female Physicians Held,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, Sept. 27, 1892
  • “Points to an Awful Crime,” Chicago Inter-Ocean, Sept. 26, 1892