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Nellie M. FlanaganNellie Flanagan, 3

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Conspiracy theory

The truth we know about Nellie is only as valid as the stories told by Harry and Pauline. These can easily be called into question.

Harry says she just missed one period since Feb 5. Does it make any sense for a newlywed to launch herself on such a determined path of self-harm? Lots of young women get pregnant right after they marry -- maybe not planned but usually not so terrifying that a back alley (or kitchen table) abortion is risked. Harry claimed to have forbidden her to see anyone for a procedure and yet did nothing to stop her other home remedies and apparently didn't call in a doctor when her pains began. Was he complicit in the plot?

Why would newlyweds go to extremes to reverse a pregnancy?

Why would newlyweds go to extremes to reverse a pregnancy?

For starters, it seems obvious that Nellie was farther along in her "delicate condition" than Harry claimed. Her severe back pains had started two weeks before -- was that when the procedure was performed and infection started? (However, some of her home remedies were pretty toxic and could have caused kidney problems and other abdominal mischief without the physical intervention.) The Deputy Coroner who questioned Harry was clearly skeptical.1

Was it Harry's child? Was he the "good guy" trying to make an honest woman of her? My grandmother never had a good word to say about Harry. My mother, our cousin Rose, and I have intuitively decided not to like him. But what if she'd been raped and Harry started out trying to be noble but couldn't take the situation any better than she could?

It's just so hard to understand is Nellie's state of mind and why she was so hellbent on not being pregnant. Or was she simply hellbent? -- the same stubbornly passionate girl who single-handedly pulled a piano out of a burning house?

It's easy to understand pregnancy panic, but it's harder to comprehend if the father of the child and light of your life marries you.

Nellie's younger sister Kitty had a church wedding the prior November to a handsome and ambitious young merchant. Maybe in a fit of self-pity around the time of the wedding, Nellie succumbed to the charms of Harry. By January she would be pregnant. They got married on February 5. Does this make sense? What changed Nellie's mind? Maybe the instant they moved in together, she knew it was a terrible mistake. We don't know much about Harry, but all the St. Louis Kralemanns were recent German immigrants or first generation Americans. Maybe his stiff Germanic expectations were unbearable to a young woman who grew up in chaotic, motherless Irish-American circumstances. I'm no psychic, but when I try to put myself in their apartment on West Belle, all I hear is arguing and screaming.

And Pauline. Was she the abortionist?

And Pauline. Was she the abortionist? Her testimony is full of holes and inconsistencies. She was a "very good friend" but unaware of Nellie's predicament. "A good friend to the lady, a dear friend; that is all." she protests. She had Nellie and Harry over for dinner the week before, when Harry had testified Nellie  been in misery for a couple weeks. Pauline says Nellie sent for her on Tuesday, but then says she'd already been to see her on Monday and volunteered to come back on Tuesday to sit with her. Nellie's husband knew what was going on. The doctor figured it out instantly and Nellie confessed to him. Usually the first thing women check in with each other about -- especially in child-bearing years -- is the state of their reproductive health. Wouldn't Nellie have confessed at least to the abominable discharge that the doctor needed to "pack" only hours later?

It would be easy to argue that Pauline was the "wise" older woman who was advising Nellie all along. Her attentiveness, the hot packs, the rubdowns -- she knew damn well what was going on. When Nellie's nostrums were not bringing on her menses, it could have easily been Pauline who decided a knitting needle or crochet hook would do the trick. Ugh. And maybe it was she who wishfully insisted to Nellie that it must be her troublesome kidneys causing the problem. Why didn't anyone insist on calling a doctor earlier??!!

Who is Harry Kralemann >>>

4.24.05 (last updated on 12.09.2005)


1 Coroner's Inquest (PDF)

Summary of the Flanagan kids

(See also The Abortionist)