Abortitonis Isabel Annie Aves 1887 - 1938

Isabel Annie Michaelsen was born in Hawkes Bay in 1887. She left school at the end of Form 2 and entered domestic service. At the age of 20 she married and bore two sons before before separating from her first husband in the mid 1920s (he died in 1931).

Annie worked as a cook to support her two sons, and it may have been at this time she began performing illegal abortions. By the time she married Charles Aves in 1932, she already had quite a reputation as an abortionist.

Working from her home in Hastings, she had clients from all around the Hawkes Bay and from as far afield as Wellington. Unlike other abortionists of the time, she did not hesitate to perform abortions later than the first trimester (3 months).

Believing that the man was responsible for the pregnancy, Annie charged him for her services. Defaulters were issued with an IOU and she employed solicitors to recover what she termed a 'loan repayment'. In one 18-month period she earned just over 2,200 pounds which was good income in those days.

A police raid in 1936 yielded remains of 22 foetuses buried in the garden. Although a number of women were found who were willing to testify, they were, in essence, her accomplices in the crime. Juries were reluctant to convict abortionists while not prosecuting the women who used their services.

Despite four trials, Annie was not prosecuted although she was finally ordered by the last judge, early in 1937, to report to the police twice weekly. In September 1938, she was visited by a young woman wanting an abortion, which Annie performed. The young woman was sent home on the Saturday and by Sunday was admitted to Hospital.

Her partner, believing the young woman he wished to marry was about to die, got hold of a gun, went to Annie's house and shot her. She died the next day. The young woman survived. The young man received a 12 year sentence for manslaughter which was reduced on appeal to seven years.

Annie's popularity and standing in the community was marked by the lengthy procession that followed her hearse from her home, and by the crowd that gathered at Hastings cemetery for her burial on 15 October 1938.

Read the Full Story Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, by Barbara Brookes. 'Aves, Isabel Annie 1887 - 1938'.