Dr. Linda Hazzard’s Washington State Penitentiary mug shots. (Washington State Archives)
Linda Hazzard killed as many as a dozen people in the early 20th century, and they paid willingly for it
Today the little town of Olalla, a ferry’s ride across Puget Sound from Seattle, is a mostly forgotten place, the handful of dilapidated buildings a testament to the hardscrabble farmers, loggers and fisherman who once tried to make a living among the blackberry vines and Douglas firs. But in the 1910s, Olalla was briefly on the front page of international newspapers for a murder trial the likes of which the region has never seen before or since.
At the center of the trial was a woman with a formidable presence and a memorable name: Dr. Linda Hazzard. Despite little formal training and a lack of a medical degree, she was licensed by the state of Washington as a “fasting specialist.” Her methods, while not entirely unique, were extremely unorthodox. Hazzard believed that the root of all disease lay in food—specifically, too much of it. “Appetite is Craving; Hunger is Desire. Craving is never satisfied; but Desire is relieved when Want is supplied,” she wrote in her self-published 1908 book Fasting for the Cure of Disease. The path to true health, Hazzard wrote, was to periodically let the digestive system “rest” through near-total fasts of days or more. During this time, patients consumed only small servings of vegetable broth, their systems “flushed” with daily enemas and vigorous massages that nurses said sometimes sounded more like beatings.
Despite the harsh methods, Hazzard attracted her fair share of patients. One was Daisey Maud Haglund, a Norwegian immigrant who died in 1908 after fasting for 50 days under Hazzard’s care. Haglund left behind a three-year-old son, Ivar, who would later go on to open the successful Seattle-based seafood restaurant chain that bears his name. But the best-remembered of Hazzard’s patients are a pair of British sisters named Claire and Dorothea (known as Dora) Williamson, the orphaned daughters of a well-to-do English army officer.
As Olalla-based author Gregg Olsen explains in his book Starvation Heights (named after the locals’ term for Hazzard’s institute), the sisters first saw an ad for Hazzard’s book in a newspaper while staying at the lush Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. Though not seriously ill, the pair felt they were suffering from a variety of minor ailments: Dorothea complained of swollen glands and rheumatic pains, while Claire had been told she had a dropped uterus. The sisters were great believers in what we might today call “alternative medicine,” and had already given up both meat and corsets in an attempt to improve their health. Almost as soon as they learned of Hazzard’s Institute of Natural Therapeutics in Olalla, they became determined to undergo what Claire called Hazzard’s “most beautiful treatment.”…
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/doctor-who-starved-her-patients-death-180953158/#47GhzxegvHwOkMAg.99
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