Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hazel Luikart, Inspired by Feminist Theory & Eugenics Propaganda, Poisons Two Daughters For Their Own Good (and for a “Career”) - 1919

PHOTO CAPTION: Fights Poison Her Mother Gave Her – Little Michigan Girl Brought to Chicago with Her Sister, Also Given Death Capsule, in a Last Effort to Save Both Lives.


NOTE: The Luikart case is one of the most important of all filicide cases – even though, thankfully, the children survived the attack – because of the mother, suffering from a personality disorder (Narcissistic and Histrionic), rationalized her desire to murder her girls by citing a combined influence of an extremist feminist theory and the then-popular eugenics theory being heavily promoted through the U.S. While there was no question as to whether the mother – who apparently intended to abandon her husband in order to pursue a fantasized glamorous career as an actress –  was motivated by a desire to prevent her husband the chance of raising the children on his own following her planned departure, she did nevertheless attempt to wrest legal custody from him following their recovery. First her mother and step-father threatened to kidnap the girls, then Mrs. Luikart filed for sole custody accusing Mr. Luikart of being an abuser.


PHOTO CAPTION: Fights Poison Her Mother Gave Her – Little Michigan Girl Brought to Chicago with Her Sister, Also Given Death Capsule, in a Last Effort to Save Both Lives.

FULL TEXT: On the outcome of a double blood transfusion operation carried out late yesterday afternoon by Dr. Thomas A. Carter at Columbus hospital depend the lives of Sherley Genevera Luikart, 7, and Edna Marjorie, her 5 year old sister, both of whom are suffering from bichloride of mercury poisoning.

At 3 o’clock this morning it was stated that Edna was some better and has a fighting chance. Sherley was close to death and little hope was held out for her.

Transfusion was employed by Dr. Carter as a last resort.

“It is almost a hundred to one chance,” the surgeon said: ”Necrosis of the tissues already has set in.” Had they been given an anodyne a week ago, there is no doubt they could have been saved. As it is, I anticipate the worst.”

~ Father Clings to Hope. ~

Despite this view of the situation, Roy Luikart, the little girls; father, expressed faith the victims of an “insane mother,” as he termed her, will recover.

“I am certain they will get well,” he said at the hospital.

The fate of the two pretty children has aroused national interest. A crowd of women waited at the Illinois Central station for the Wolverine Special of the Michigan Central railroad, which brought the poison victims to Chicago.

“O, the sweet little things!” one said. “How could any mother ever have done such a dreadful thing?”

Passengers on the train had learned of the case, and bushels of forbidden dainties were brought to the chair car, where a bed had been made up for the children.

~ A Race Against Death. ~

Details of the mother’s act in giving the children poison constituted the sole subject of conversation, and when the train arrived at Battle Creek the crew of a new engine was told the trip to Chicago was able to be a race against death. The train was already an hour and twenty minutes behind schedule.

“I’ll make up part of that time, or blow up the boiler,” the fireman said. True to his promise, twenty minutes had been made up when the train reached Chicago.

Although they suffered no pain during the trip, it was evident Sherley and Edna bother were very ill, the older child especially so.

~ Calls for Her Mama. ~

During moments of consciousness Sherley called out:

“Daddy, where is mamma?”

Her father kissed the drawn forehead, smoothed back the tumbled golden hair, and soothed hair. He did not dare tell her that her mother is a prisoner in the Pontiac county jail.

Neither of the children knows the reason for so much excitement or of the poisoning. They only know they are very ill.

Edna sat up during most of the journey and played with “Snoodles,” her rag doll. The father rode with Sherley, who spoke but little.

The father, after the children had been attended at the hospital, sat in a wicker rocking chair on the porch and told the drab details leading up to the poisoning.

~ Husband Forgives All. ~

“I am partly to blame,” he said. “Terrible as her act is, I forgive her, because I know she was insane when she poisoned her babies.

“Although Hazel has told me she no longer loves me, I am going to stand by her until the end. The law cannot punish her more than she has punished herself. I know she is suffering and I pity her.

“Had I been temperamentally more suited to her she might have been happy. I am serious and quiet, and not a large money maker. She craved a career on the stage and suffered because of her thwarted dreams.

“Perhaps if I had been more watchful this terrible thing would never have happened. I often feared she might harm the girls, but I could not make myself believe she really would act.

~ “Girls Better Off Dead.” ~

“She said to me only a few months ago that Sherley and Edna were only child women and that they would be better off dead than grown to womanhood

“Hazel confessed to me she had given the children poison five days after she had committed the crime. She had told our family doctor the next day and he had done everything possible, but they did not tell me. Finally she was arrested and I learned the truth.

“She told me had not though of poisoning the children until she had seen a motion picture which suggested the idea. [After extensive research it is determined that the only likely possibility is the eugenics propaganda film titled “The Black Stork” (re-edited and re-released as “Are You Fit to Marry?”) * see below for more information.] First she gave them tablets, which they threw up. Then she put the poison into capsules.”

Suggesting a possible motive for the mother’s act, he said Mrs. Luikart suffered frequently from melancholia.

“She often told me women had no chance in the world and are never anything but household drudges.”

In an interview at the Pontiac county jail last night, Mrs. Luikart added support to this theory.

“I desired boy babies,” she said. “Girls have no chance in the world.”

~ Reporter Gives Blood. ~

Thomas J. Wren, a reporter for an afternoon newspaper, offered his blood to the attending surgeon, and after a test he was accepted.

Before her marriage eight years ago Mrs. Luikart was Miss Haxel Harrison of Herrick, S. D., The husband last night telegraphed to her mother, Mrs. A. Zorba, who is expected to come to Chicago tomorrow.

It was after Detroit physicians had given up hope of saving the Luikart children that they were brought to Chicago for treatment by Dr. Carter, who, through a formula of his own, which he has given to the medical profession, has been especially successful in saving bichloride victims.

[“Fight Here To Save Children Wife Poisoned – Blood Transfused to Two Little Girls as Last Resort.” The Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Oct. 10, 1919, pp. 1 & 10]


“The Black Stork” was a propaganda film promoting eugenics. Based on a true story, and featuring eugenics advocate Dr. Harry J. Haiselden, tells of  a Chicago physician who refused to perform a life-saving operation on an infant who was born with a crippling deformity.

“The Black Stork” was given its national premiere in Ithaka, New York on Oct. 16, 1916, and its New York City debut was Nov. 24, 1916. It public premiere in Chicago in 1917.  There were numerous demands in various cities for censorship. The film was re-edited and released as Are You Fit To Marry? In 1919.

An important and well-written study of the film and its influence, “The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of ‘Defective’ Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915,” written by historian Martin S. Pernick was published in 1996 by Oxford University Press.

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