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
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:
- “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
Louise Achtenbergabortionists, abortionistsfemaleLouise Achtenberg was born in Germany in 1849 or 1850. She came to the United States around 1880.
Achtenberg self-identified as a midwife, and was identified in newspaper articles as such, but was twice listed as a doctor in the Homicide in Chicago Database. It’s possible that she was a physician, since at that time female doctors who practiced obstetrics were typically identified as midwives, though it is more likely that her self-identification as a midwife was the correct one. Either way, as a physician or as a midwife, she would have been typical of Chicago abortionists of the era.
She was implicated in five fatal abortions The following is the best chronology I can create of Achtenberg’s victims, how she was identified at the time, and where she was living.
- 1900, per city directory, midwife, 4358 Dearborn St.
- 1904, per city directory, 4346 Dearborn St.
- 1907, death of Dora Swan
- per news, midwife, 4346 Dearborn St.
- 1909, death of Stella Kelly
- 1910, per census, age 61, 6620 Peoria St.
- 1918, death of Florence Wright
- 1918, non-fatal abortion on Ruth G. Pickling*
- 1920, death of Violet McCormick
- per Database, doctor, 8046 Green St.
- per census, age 70, no occupation, 8046 Green St.
- 1924, death of Madelyn Anderson
- 1930, per census, age 80, 7559 Langley Ave.
I can find no record that she was ever incarcerated.
*”Aged Woman is Acquitted on Murder Charge,” Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1918
Louisa Kimball, September 15, 1854 Age: 25
Born in Vermont, died in Boston from peritonitis. Wife of George Kimball.
Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915
In early April, 1927, Arhne Reynolds died at the office of Dr. Louis Ginsburg from an abortion performed on her there that day. Ginsburg was arrested later in the month, and indicted for felony murder in May.
Louchrisser Jacksonquackery, 20s, 1970s, texas, inadequateresuscitationSUMMARY: Louchrisser Jackson, age 23, bled to death on November 4, 1977 after an abortion by Robert Gardner at Reproductive Services in Dallas, TX.
Louchrisser Ann Jackson, a 23-year-old homemaker and married mother of five, was 12 weeks pregnant when she went to Dr. Robert L. Gardner for a safe and legal abortion at Reproductive Services in Dallas on November 4, 1977.
Louchrisser began hemorrhaging. Gardner said that he ordered blood for a transfusion, but it didn’t arrive so about an hour before her death he attempted to give her a transfusion with his own blood — which turned out to be an incompatible type.
A private ambulance was called but was not informed of the nature of the transport. In that jurisdiction, private ambulances are only permitted to transport stable patients; they are prohibited from responding to emergency calls. Because the ambulance service had no reason to expect an emergency, they did not respond promptly, nor did they refer the transport to the fire department’s ambulance service.
When the ambulance crew arrived, Louchrisser had gone into cardiac arrest. The crew, upon discovering that they’d been called for an emergency transport, rushed Louchrisser to the hospital immediately rather than calling for a fire department ambulance.
Louchrisser died that day. Gardner requested that the body be released without an inquiry. Another physician at the hospital learned of the case and requested an inquiry.
The autopsy found massive hemmorage of at least two liters of blood, and a “1.8 x 2 cm. ragged perforation in the right lateral wall just above the internal os of the cervical canal. This perforation communicates freely with the retroperitoneal space on the right side. The endometrial surface of the uterus is ragged and hemorrhagic.” Death was attributed to “massive retroperitoneal hemorrhage due to perforation of the uterus during a therapeutic abortion.”
After another patient, 21-year-old Claudia Lott, petitioned the state to close the clinic, it was revealed that:
- The clinic was allowing counselors with no medical degree to give medical advice and perform medical procedures.
- Staff were not informing patients of risks.
- There was not emergency equipment on hand.
Gardner himself testified against the clinic, stating that they ran “an assembly-line operation.” “Gardner admitted the clinic took only one or two minutes between operations, and used black-tarnished surgical instruments and ‘switched sterile gloves between operations but never scrubbed down.'”
As you can see from the graph below, abortion deaths were falling dramatically before legalization. This steep fall had been in place for decades. To argue that legalization lowered abortion mortality simply isn’t supported by the data.
- “A Dallas abortion turns to gruesome death,” Dallas Morning News 7-28-78,
- Autopsy Report Case No. 2262-77-1103
- “Injunction issued to halt activity at abortion clinic,” Dallas Morning News, June 23, 1978
- Texas death certificate, 32309
Lou E. Davisabortionists, abortionistsfemaleDr. Lou E. DavisIn September of1913, 27-year-old Anna Adler died in Chicago, on the scene of an abortion performed by Dr. Lou. E. Davis that day. Davis was arrested that day, and she was indicted by a Grand Jury in October, but the case never went to trial.
In April of 1924, 26-year-old homemaker Mary Whitney underwent an abortion at the Chicago office of Dr. Lou E. Davis. in May, Mary died at St. Mary’s Hospital of complications of that abortion. Dr. Davis was held by the coroner in May.
In November of1928, 22-year-old Norwegian immigrant Anna Borndal died at the office of Dr. Lou E. Davis of Chicago, from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Davis was held by the coroner for unintentional manslaughter. She was indicted by a grand jury for homicide.
In December of 1928, 23-year-old Esther V. Wahlstrom died in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion. Dr. Lou E. Davis was indicted for felony murder. I’ve found a clue that Davis was convicted in this case, and appealed the conviction.
Irene Kirschner, age 24, died in May of 1932 after an abortion. When police went to arrest Davis for Irene’s death, they found another abortion-injured woman at her house but no sign of Davis.
Davis was tried three times for the February, 1934 abortion death of 27-year-old Gertrude Gaesswitz. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, the second in an overturned conviction. Davis was acquitted in the third trial.
Census records indicate that Davis was born about 1887 in Ohio. According to “Abortion”, an article by John Bartlow Martin published in The Saturday Evening Post May 27, 1961, Davis was committed to a mental institution in 1949 at the age of about 77.
On September 14, 1928, 20-year-old Stella Wallenberg, a bindery worker, died from a criminal abortion performed in Chicago. Loretta Rybicki, identified as a “massaguer”, was held by the coroner for murder by abortion. Dr. Nicholas Kalinowski was held as an accessory. Rybicki was indicted for felony murder on November 15.
On November 26, 1923, 23-year-old Alice S. Johnson died at Chicago’s West End Hospital from a criminal abortion performed there that day.
The coroner identified Dr. Lorenz Lapsky as being responsible for Alice’s death.
Lapsky was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder on December 15.
Lorenz Brown Lapsky was bornin Tacoma, Washington on April 17, 1891.
Loren Franklin, age 19, of Buffalo, Missouri, died in August of 1924 in Wichita, Kansas. An inquest was held to verify if Dr. Charles C. Keester had perpetrated a fatal abortion on her. A tentative date of death is August 4.
Keester had already been implicated in the abortion deaths of Hattie Myers, age 19, March, 1922; and Hazel Hadicke, age 19, December, 1923.
The same month that Loren died, Keester was implicated in the abortion death of “Bonnie,” age 18.
He would go on to be convicted in the February 28, 1930 abortion death of Rena Armstrong, age 17.
“Inquest Delayed,” Hutchinson (KS) News, Aug. 13, 1924
Long Island Gynecological GroupmillsA lawsuit filed by the father of Barbara Dillon, a 22-year-old college student, alleged that Barbara underwent a safe and legal abortionperformed by Dr. Mark Silver at Long Island Gynecological Group April 18, 1981.