SUMMARY: On April 25, 1902, 19-year-old Harriet Larocque died after a criminal abortion perpetrated in New York City.

In January of 1902, Abraham Conheim promised marriage to 19-year-old Harriet "Hattie" Larocque, originally of Canton, New York.

According to Hattie's father, Leon, Hattie was the seventh of his nine children, and was "previously chaste and of good reputation." With the promise of marriage, Hattie became sexually involved with Conheim, who had hired her to work for him as a cloak model.

In April of 1902, about 18 months after moving to New York City, Hattie discovered that she was pregnant. Conheim reneged on his promise of marriage. Instead he and his friend, traveling salesman Leo Asher. There they arranged a criminal abortion for her.

An elderly woman named Carrie Blount had occupied the hotel room next to Asher's during the period in question. "I saw Miss Bailey go into Asher's room day and night," she later told the Coroner's Jury. "He used to signal by whistling when he came into his room, and she would come downstairs and knock on the door. Sometimes she did not leave until 3 o'clock in the morning. I have heard her sob and cry in Asher's room. I never saw him give her any money, but the day she left the house I overheard her say to him, 'Don't forget to send me the money.'"

At some point, Hattie was attended by Dr. Mary J. McCleery in the McCleery home. Martha Collier, who was a boarder at the McCleery home, said that Harriet had arrived there on April 9. Dr. McCleery said that she had only given Hattie simple medications.

Hattie took ill after the abortion and was admitted to New York Hospital as "Hattie Bailey," a name she was using while in New York. She was visited at the hospital by the coroner, and again gave her name as Hattie Bailey. She told the coroner conflicting stories. First she said that she was secretly married to Abraham, but later she denied that she was married to anybody. She said that "both had wronged her" and that Asher had promised her marriage but had instead sent her to "Dr. McCleery."

Hattie's mental state deteriorated and she began speaking to Asher as though he was present in the room. She died at the hospital of peritonitis on April 25.

HarrietLaroqueFuneralNotice.jpgThere was a large turnout for her May 1 funeral at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Harriet's home town of Lowville, New York, before her brothers, John and Leon Jr., set off to New York City for the coroner's inquest with their father, Leon Sr.

Fearful that they might seek violent revenge, the police searched Hattie's brothers and father for weapons when they arrived in the city. Leon Jr. was quoted as saying, "No, I don't want to murder anybody. I'd rather fight it out with him. They have failed to prove who did the murder. But somebody did. My mother's heart is broken and Hattie is under the sod. It's pretty tough."

Hattie's father sued Conheim for seducing and debauching his daughter, impregnating her, and causing her death. There were never any arrests to hold anybody else accountable, largely because Hattie's statements at the hospital were never formally taken down as an ante-mortem statement.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

HarrietLaroqueLeavenworthKSTimes13May1902.pngSources:
  • 42 Misc. 613, 87 N.Y.S. 625; Supreme Court, Oneida County, New York, Special Term. Larocque v. Conheim February, 1904. Action by Leon Larocque, administrator of Harriet Larocque, deceased, against Abraham Conheim
  • Funeral notice
  • "$20,000 Demanded: Miss Harriet Larocque's Sensational Death Recalled," The Lowville (NY) Journal and Republican, undated clipping
  • "Dislikes Detective Methods," New York Sun, Apr. 27, 1902
  • "'Hattie Bailey' is Identified," New York Press, Apr. 28, 1902
  • "No One Held For Model's Murder," Leavenworth (KS) Times, 13 May, 1902
HarrietLaroqueNYSun27Apr1902.png
HarrietLaroqueNYPressApril 28_1902.jpg



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