The True Story of New York City’s Most Notorious Abortionist
Her Early Life, Family, and Murder
by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, MFA, CG
At 8 a.m. on the first of April 1878, the chamber maid found Madame Restell’s nude body in the bathtub, her throat cut. The coroner ruled it a suicide. But is that what really happened?
Madame Restell was New York City’s most notorious abortionist of the nineteenth century. Some claimed she was an evil presence, but in reality, she was “a necessary evil.” At a time when there were no reliable means of birth control, procuring an abortion was common. Madame Restell capitalized on her career as a “female physician” and “professor of midwifery,” helping hundreds of women and men for nearly forty years while amassing great wealth.
Part of her downfall was in flaunting the wealth she attained from catering to New York City’s elite by constructing a mansion on Fifth Avenue, driving around in elaborate carriages, and wearing diamond jewelry and stylish silk dresses. At her death, she was worth millions and her notoriety made her a stain on the city.
So who was the real woman behind the persona of Madame Restell? Much of what’s been written, past and present, has spun mistruths about her. There is another side to the story of her death and much more to the story of her life.
Based on decades of meticulous research and never-before-published primary source materials, Madame Restell: The True Story of New York City’s Most Notorious Abortionist, Her Early Life, Family, and Murder offers an investigative study of American’s most infamous abortionist. In this riveting hybrid monograph of biography, family history, and true crime, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack chose to sacrifice the details of Madame Restell’s career and trials to concentrate on unravelling the true story of English-born Ann (Trow) (Summers) Lohman (1811–1878), the woman who would become this notorious nineteenth-century figure. Taking segments of Ann’s life, Carmack corrects misinformation, adds new material about Restell that has never been published, and presents a compelling argument that Ann’s “suicide” was, in reality, a far more tragic end. In addition, Carmack features for the first time in print details about Madame Restell’s English ancestry and her American descendants.
“Carmack’s unique theory that Restell was murdered is credibly presented, along with a primary suspect. Agatha Christie would approve.”—Andrew Alpern, architectural historian, architect, attorney, and author
“Sharon Carmack triumphs again! Her thorough and detailed investigation of the saga of Madame Restell offers compelling new insights into Ann Lohman’s life, occupation, and origins and it corrects prior biographical treatments of an infamous subject. For genealogists and historians, this work is an inspiration and an exemplar.”—D. Brenton Simons, President and CEO of American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society
“An intriguing, deeply researched exploration of the life and mysterious death of the notorious Madame Restell.”—E. J. Wagner, author of the Edgar Award winning, The Science of Sherlock Holmes
Madame Restell: The True Story of New York City’s Most Notorious Abortionist, Her Early Life, Family, and Murder, 2023, 288 pp., 58 illus., notes, bibliography, index. $19.99. ISBN 978-0-9972076-8-2. Available on Amazon or here.