Madame Restell, "The Wickedest Woman in New York"
In 19th Century New York, everyone knew who to go to to end an unwanted pregnancy: the French-trained, sophisticated Madame Restell, who lived in a posh mansion on 5th Avenue. In reality, Madame Restell was English immigrant Ann Trow Lohman, and she had never even been to France, but she managed to combine medical skill with her carefully crafted public persona to become tremendously wealthy, while providing a much-needed service. As the legal landscape of the United States grew ever more conservative, Madame Restell did her best to evade the authorities, and then Anthony Comstock knocked on her door.
Joining me this week to help us understand more about Madame Restell is historian and writer Jennifer Wright, author of Madame Restell: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist.
Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The mid-episode music is part of Twelve Pieces for piano, op. 40, No. 9, Valse in F-sharp minor, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1878, performed by Kevin McLeod, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. The episode image is “The arrest of abortionist Ann Lohman (a.k.a. Madame Restell) by Anthony Comstock,” from the February 23, 1878, edition of the New York Illustrated Times; scanned from The Wickedest Woman in New York: Madame Restell, the Abortionist by Clifford Browder; available via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain.
- “Madame Restell: The Abortionist of Fifth Avenue,” by Karen Abbott, Smithsonian Magazine, November 27, 2012.
- “Life Story: Ann Trow Lohman, a.k.a. Madame Restell (1812 - 1878),” Women and the American Story, New York Historical Society.
- “When 'The Wickedest Woman of New York' Lived on Fifth Avenue,” by Simon Scully, Mental Floss, October 2, 2020.
- “Madame Restell’s Other Profession,” By Christopher Gray, The New York Times, October 10, 2013.
- “‘Sex and the Constitution’: Anthony Comstock and the reign of the moralists,” by Geoffrey Stone, The Washington Post, March 23, 2017.
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