Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marianne Skoublinska, Polish Midwife & Serial Killer - 1890


NOTE: The name appears with a variety of spellings in English-language news reports: “Skoublinska,” Skoblinska,” “Skonblinska,” “Skublinski,” “Stysinski.” The following articles contain the spellings used in the original print edition, but the same “Marianne Skoublinska” has been chosen for use in The Unknown History of MISANDRY as the standard name, since the report using that spelling includes a first name.”

New information: A Polish visitor has been kind enough to provide the correct spelling: Marianna Skublińska.

Some brief reports on this case did not mention any name such as this one: “A woman concerned in baby farming at Warsaw has been charged with murdering seventy-five infants. She was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.” [“Extensive Baby Farming - 76 Infants Murdered.” The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW, Australia), Apr. 2, 1890, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): A horrible series of crimes has been discovered at Warsaw. A fire at an old house in Sienna-street had been extinguished by the brigade, when some firemen who had been left to prevent any mischief from stray sparks discovered a child’s corpse beneath the floor; two other similar discoveries were made soon after, and finally eight bodies were found beneath the floor of one room. The Chronicle correspondent at Vienna says that on some partitions and a cupboard being pulled down, six more bodies of children were brought to light [1+2+8+6=17]. An inmate of the house, a midwife named Skoblinska, has been arrested on suspicion of having killed and buried the infants. As she had been living in the house only four months the police are engaged in making investigations into her antecedents. Skoblinska shared her apartment with her sister. Each of the women had a grown-up daughter. The other three women were also arrested on suspicion of being implicated with Skoblinska. It is stated that in all fifty bodies have been found.

[“Horrible Crimes At Warsaw – Fifty Murdered Babies Found.” The Echo (London, England), Feb. 24, 1890, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): According to advices from Warsaw some details have now come to light about the dreadful child murders committed there by the midwife Skublinski and some other women who have already been arrested. Skublinski resided in an attic, that she secretly received young illegitimate children “to nurse,” as she said. In reality, she, with several other women, carried on a regular trade in murdering infants. The attention of the police had already been drawn to this woman, and an unexpected examination of the house revealed several cradles with two and three babies in each.

Now, as Skublinski had no right to receive mothers and new-born children, she had to promise that from thenceforth she would take no more young infants into her house. Notwithstanding this, the police on a subsequent occasion found three little babies, and she was, in consequence, summoned, and the hearing was fixed for the 19th inst. [in February, apparently, rather than May as stated here] before the justice of the peace. During the night of the 17th she set fire to her lodging, after having first murdered the children committed to her charge.

Then this inhuman woman went and stood in the yard of the house among the excited crowd and quietly waited to see what would happen. As the house was only built of wood, she evidently hoped it would be completely destroyed. But one of the inmates of the house suddenly remembered the woman in the garret and her charges, and called out to the firemen to save the children.

Then Skubliuski was for the first time soon standing in the yard, and when she was asked if the children were already saved, she answered that they were no longer with her. In the meanwhile, the firemen had so far succeeded in subduing the fire that one of them penetrated into Skublinski’s lodging, and, not knowing what she had said, immediately began to search for the children. He soon found one little corpse, and then two more.

They wore taken down to the yard, and a doctor who happened to be present declared that the children were not choked by smoke, but a crime had been perpetrated. Then the police came forward and four more corpses were discovered, on one of which were distinct traces of the skull having been battered in. Consequently Skublinski and the other women were arrested.

[“A Diabolical Crime.” Supplement to Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), May 17, 1890, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 6): The woman baby-farmer, Stysinski, who is believed to have disposed of seventy-five babies during the last few years, has just been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Her baby farm, or rather graveyard, became known to the police a month ago through her setting fire to her cottage, containing five little children, in order to obtain the amount of the insurance on her property. At the trial it was proved that not a single child which was entrusted to her care and entered her den ever left her house alive. It was also shown that she made two charges for taking care of children, fifteen roubles for allowing the baby to die in a few weeks, and twenty for procuring its death within a day or two. She frequently threw the bodies of the children to her pigs, and boasted of the fattest pigs in the district on account of the exceptionally good feed she provided for them, in spite of all the evidence, she could not be convicted of murder.

[“The Polish Baby Murderer Sentenced,” The Nelson Evening Mail (New Zealand), May 27, 1890, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): In our last number we mentioned the case of  Skonblinska, a baby farmer in Warsaw, who was tried lately for causing the deaths of about seventy children. speaking of the death sentence lately pronounced upon Sophie Günzbourg, the New York Volks-Zeitung remarks: “For a young girl who is supposed to have had the intention of attempting the life of the Tzar – the gallows; for the murderess of so many children – three years penal servitude. After that, who can reproach the Nihilists for what the do?”

[Untitled, Free Russia, (The Organ of the English Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, American Edition), (New York, N.Y.), Apr. 1891, p. 6]

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FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6) : Le journal russe de Varsovie, donne les détails suivants sur le crime dont nous avons parlé dans le Stéphanois d’avant-hier:

Dans la nuit du 20 an 21 février, un incendie éclatait au numéro 56 de la rue Sennaia. Uu pompier avait trouvé à tâtons, dans une toute petite chambrette complètement obscure, le cadavre d’un enfant, quand on apporta des lanternes on découvrit encore sept cadavres d’enfants, dont quatre intacts et les trois autres en décomposision complète.

Tous portaient des traces de violence, la tête d’un de ces petits cadavres était fracassée.
On a fait immédiatement arrêter Ja sage-femme Marianne Skoublinska, propriétaire du logement dans lequel les cadavres ont été trouvés, ainsi que deux voisines, les femmes Zianowska et Winnicka.

On a constaté jusqu’ici 76 victimes de la Skoublinska.

A la suite des perquisitions faites, quatre arrestations ont été opérées dans différents quartiers. Un jeune homme de dix-huit ans, qu’ demeurait chez la Skoublinska, a avoué, après son arrestation, avoir pendant quelques mois emporté du logement de la Skoublinska une cinquantaine de cadavres d’enfants. Le menuisier Milenski a confectionné pour la Skoublinska des bières pour dix ou quinze cadavres.

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FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 6): At the examination of the woman Skooblinsky, lately arrested at Warsaw, details were brought out which reveal to what a horrible extent baby farming is carried on in Russia [Poland was controlled by Russia at the time]. The details induce one to believe that in the matter of surreptitiously disposing of  infants Russia is not very much better than China, where the Herodian custom is supposed to flourish best – or worst. It is said that Count Tolstoi, learning of these horrible practices, was inspired to write his “Kreutzer Sonata,” in which he hurled this piece of scorn at the present civilization:

What terrible unveracity passes current nowadays respecting children! Children, forsooth, are a blessing from God. Children are a joy. Now all this is a lie. This was so in times gone by; but it is not true in our days; nothing like it is true. Children are felt to be a scourge. This they are, and nothing more.”

The wildest excitement prevailed in some parts of Russia on the publication of the woman’s testimony, and the most serious of the papers called such homes as hers “angel factories.” Her method was like that of all of her class. ‘A common servant-woman gives herself out for a licensed midwife, opens what she grandiloquently terms an establishment for the bringing up of children in Warsaw, but which is, in plain truth, a filthy hut on the outskirts of the city, in which they are gradually done to death – and begins business without more ado. To the tender mercies of this monster mothers unhesitatingly confide their babies, paying her in advance for her trouble. In a short time her name and fame spread far and wide, and her clientele grows more numerous and more varied, including individuals; or families placed by birth or fortune far out of the reach of want. Unable to attend alone to the various departments of this lucrative occupation, she has recourse to the principle of the division of labor, hiring a sharp, cynical woman of loose character to furnish the establishment with “raw material.”

Besides these colleagues, Shooblinsky gave fees to her son-in-law to forge doctors’ certificates of death from natural causes; contracted with a carpenter to receive the little corpses, and keep them till a sufficient number accumulated to make it worth while to bury them, when it became his duty to assist her in chopping them up into little bits and packing them neatly into a spacious coffin of his own make. They were then buried by a half idiot boy who lived with Skooblinsky.

In Russia one can do nothing, good or bad, without a special authorization from the paternal authorities, and from this universal rule baby farming is not excepted. Hence the police, having received an inkling of what was going on, and knowing that Skooblinsky had been tried some twelve months previously for infanticide and acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence,” paid her a visit one day and found her “nursing four children,” whom they ordered her to return to their parents, seeing that she had no license to carry on the business of baby farmer. To this she assented, but instead of sending them back to their mothers she dispatched them.

The next day all the four children left for a better world, and that night the boy heard her call out to her son-in-law: “I say, Koonya, take away those puppies; they’re dead.” They had been systematically starved to death, a method of disposing of them which set her right in the eyes of the law, and en abled her to say to the procurator: “I did not kill them. They  died, poor things, because they were very weak. My calling was an honest one.”


The fathers and mothers who in trusted their children to this woman will never be discovered, for Skooblinsky made it a point never to inquire whence they came, what position they occupied, or even their names. In ordinary times $10 was the charge, but whenever business grew brisk” it was raised to a much higher sum, and lowered to $2.50 when it was un usually slack. Maybe the baby loses little in dying, for an illegitimate child in Russia is generally subjected for the term of natural life to cruel treatment. It is stripped of certain of its civil rights and is scoffed and sneered at with impunity in season and out of season, and made the butt of every coarse jester that comes along.

He bears about in his passport, like Cain on his forehead, the indelible mark that brands him as a fugitive and a vagabond. The following case, taken from the Law Journal of St. Petersburg, is a type:

The victim was the illegitimate daughter of a Russian nobleman, idolized by her father, who gave her a fine education. This nobleman’s death put an end to the education when the daughter was just turned sixteen. She was full of life and energy, shrank from no kind of labor, and resolved to win her way upward by her own unaided efforts. The reception she met with, however, on her first application for employment proved a wet blanket to her ardor.

“Have you a legal passport?” she was asked. ‘“No, I am an illegitimate child, but it’s not the passport that will do the work, but myself, and I am here.” “Yes, no doubt; but that is not enough. A Russian without a passport is like the sea without waier. There is no thoroughfare for the likes of you. Good-by.”

Bewildered, she ran hither and thither, endeavoring to obtain a passport, but in vain. Some officials promised, others shook rudely off, and others threatened her with imprisonment and Siberia for vagrancy. Still, however, she shifted as well as she could under the circumstances, making head against all difficulties and just keeping body and soul together.

At last a young man. full of admiration for her noble qualities, asked for her heart and her hand. The harbor of rest was in sight. So it seemed at first, but in reality this proved to be only a respite. here is your passport? You have none? Marriage is impossible without one. No priest can perform the ceremony for you.

Tears, sighs and earnest entreaties purchased pity and promise, but no remedy.

Her union with her bridegroom was cemented by love but not hallowed by religion, the legislator, forbidding the priest to pronounce a benediction. This was bad, but not the worst. A very demon seemed to preside over her destiny, for soon after the birth of her first child her helpmate died, and she was left alone in the world with despair for a guide and not even a passport to legalize a life of misery. Hundreds of similar Russian illegitimate children lose but little when they lose life.

Mothers, on the other hand, think that they would lose a great deal if they had to keep their children alive, and public opinion points the same way, for Russian juries never convict a mother who is guilty of nothing worse than killing her illegitimate offspring.

There are two colossal foundling asylums in Russia one in St. Petersburg, and the other In Moscow and the law refuses to countenance the opening of other similar institutions in the provinces; Now the maintenance of these two houses costs £300,000 a year.

These foundling institutions have existed for over 125 years, and have taken in during that time 1,300,000 children. The number of  those who died before completing  the first year of his life was 990,303, or 77 per-cent of the total. Of the remainder, 150,000 more died before leaving the asylum, so that only 155,268 children passed through the fiery ordeaI.

These figures give one only a very imperfect idea of the total number of children who die in Russia from avoidable causes. A numerous profession exists in the provinces of Russia, the members of which are needy women, endowed with an intuition enabling them to scent out all those mothers who desire to get their children put into the Moscow or the St. Petersburg asylum for foundlings.

They collect the little waifs, pack them in baskets (six or eight in one basket), stow them away under the seats of the third-class railway carriages, along with eggs, butter, rags and refuse and those who survive this first life’s journay are deposited at the front gates of  the foundling asylums. Eighty-eight per cent of these are in due time carted out of the back gates in the shape of little corpses.

Child-murder is too common in Russia to excite much comment. The Moscow Gazette recently had this:

“The Seventh department of the Moscow court of assizes tried the female cook, Riva Blatt, eighteen years old, for the murder of her child. She rolled it up in a napkin and threw it into a hole that she had dug out for the purpose.

As she was caught in flagrante delictu, the child was taken out alive, but it died very soon after from the effects. The jury found her innocent.

[“Unwelcome Babies, And How They Are Got Out of the Way in Frigid Russia. - A “Little Angel Factory” About Which Awful Stories “ - Are Told. Where the Little Ones Are Starved to Death and Cut in Pieces. - A Woman Caught Killing Her Child Found Innocent by a Jury.” St. Paul Daily Globe (Mn.), Jul. 14, 1890, p. 5]

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For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.

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2 comments:

  1. Her name was Marianna Skublińska

    Source: I'am Polish

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marianna Skublińska. "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" 1890, nr 8.

    ReplyDelete