Sunday, August 7, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 7

August 7, 1911 – Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, formerly of Minneapolis, Minn., charged with murder in the first degree, was unable to obtain $10,000 bail late today and she was committed to the Kitsap County Jail. Dr. Hazzard is charged with having starved Claire Williamson, a wealthy spinster, to death.

Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard1

The doctor conducted an institute of “Natural Therapeutics” at Olalla, Wash., where hundreds of persons went for treatment for stomach trouble. She grew rich from her practice. Over the last few years many complaints were made against her charging that infirm persons often were held under her psychological influence longer than the treatment necessitated.

“Despite her lack of a medical degree, she was licensed to practice medicine in Washington. A loophole in a licensing law grandfathered in some practitioners of alternative medicine who didn’t have medical degrees, including Hazzard.

“Hazzard [claimed] disease could be cured by fasting, allowing the digestive system to ‘rest’ and be ‘cleansed,’ removing ‘impurities’ from the body. Fasting, she maintained, could cure anything from toothache to tuberculosis. The real source of all disease was ‘impure blood’ brought on by ‘impaired digestion.’ There were other popular proponents of fasting around at the time. Hazzard said she had studied with one of them, Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey, author of The Gospel of Health.

“But Hazzard added some embellishments of her own. Her regime included daily enemas that went on for hours and involved up to twelve quarts of water. Patients were heard to cry out in pain during these procedures. The third part of her therapy was massage that consisted of Hazzard -- a wiry woman said to be stronger than the average man -- beating her fists against the patients’ foreheads and backs. One alarmed witness reported her doing so vigorously while shouting ‘Eliminate! Eliminate!’”2

Dr. Hazzard treated two wealthy sisters from Great Britain, Claire and Dora Williamson. Claire Williamson died a few weeks ago from emaciation or starvation, being subjected to the extreme treatment of Dr. Hazzard. Her sister, Dora, however, was rescued shortly after Claire’s death.

Dora Williamson after her rescue3

A short time before her death, Claire made Dr. Hazzard full administratrix by giving her power of attorney over all of her estate. When the “starvation” doctor applied to the courts for legal permission to manage the estate of the decedent, suspicion was aroused. She was taken before a special grand jury and examined with result that she was indicted on charge of murder in the first degree.

Dr. Hazzard had been in Port Orchard, the county seat of Kitsap, for several weeks in her attempt to gain control of the rich holdings of Claire Williamson. Dr. Hazzard maintained elaborately furnished office rooms in the Northern Bank Building, Seattle, and enjoyed a wide and influential patronage, especially from elderly women.

She has been prominent as a suffragette and at one time was choice of the Women’s League for state senator, but was defeated.

The case will come to trial in the Sept. term of court in Kitsap County.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Dr. Hazzard is Prisoned on a Charge of Homicide. Former Minneapolis Woman is held in Seattle—Unable to Raise Bail Money. Doctor Accused of Starving Patient—Indicted by Grand Jury.”; Aug. 8, 1911; p. 1.




The Wash. State Supreme Court today upheld the first degree murder conviction of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, known as the “starvation doctor.”; see Aug. 12 blog.


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