Madame Restell was the name Ann Trow Lohman gave herself, but to New Yorkers she was known as “The Abortionist,” “Madame Killer,” and “The Wickedest Woman in New York.” Vilified as she was, she and her husband built a mansion on fashionable Fifth Avenue, proof that many wealthy clients used her services.
Restell started her business in New York during the 1830s, and by the 1840s she had franchised women’s clinics that sold her “remedies”—concoctions in pill or powder form, across the country. Abortion was not clearly legally defined and was not necessarily considered a crime.
Madame Restell advertised her medical services in penny presses and legitimate newspapers, spending an estimated $60,000 in one year alone. One ad brazenly addressed the married woman : “Is it desirable, then, for parents to increase their families, regardless of consequences to themselves, or the well-being of their offspring, when a simple, easy, healthy, and certain remedy is within our control?” Restell was unsuccessfully indicted six times between 1839 and 1845, as eyewitnesses did not volunteer to come forward. One case, however, finally went to trial and Restell was found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to one year on Blackwell’s Island (today’s Roosevelt Island). Although she was provided with luxuries for her time in jail, Restell vowed she would never go back. Read the rest of this entry »