group of mostly teenage Chicago girls from upper middle
class families formed a club to coordinate their
literary activities. They named
it Femina Pleasure Club (FPC). Twenty-year-old Mabel
Hunter was the president and thirteen-year-old Abbie
Raymer the treasurer. All were from the Humboldt
Park area of Chicago. Most lived on Humbolt
Ave, some on a southern tail of Humboldt, just north
of Douglas Park, that doesn't seem to exist any
On December 30, 1903, nine members of the club
as well as four others – a friend, Abbie Raymer's
mother and two sisters – attended a
Mr. Bluebeard matinee at the new Iroquois Theater.
Intending to purchase seats in the second floor
balcony, they accidentally purchased seats in the
third floor balcony. Nine in the party survived and four perished.
Nineteen-year-old May Marx (b.
May lived at 69 North Humboldt
Ave. She was the daughter of Chicago attorney, New
York native, August Marx (c1849-c1925) and Anne
Eiles Marx (1854-). She had a brother, Frank Marx
and two sisters, Gussie Marx (1887-) and Nana Marx
(1883-). In 1904 May's father, August Marx, was
chairman of the first annual memorial service for
Iroquois Theater victims and served as an officer in
the organization for several years.
Sixteen-year-old Viva Rose
Jackson (b. 1887)
Became the victim on which
years of trials were founded, with her mother
leading the charge.
Wisconsin-born Viva was the
daughter of Iowa natives, insurance salesman, James
C. Jackson (1849-1929) and Maude Robinson Jackson (1868-1917).
Viva was buried at the Forest Park Cemetery in
Chicago. Maude became a playwright and pageant
producer in later years.
Thirteen-year-old Leigh Hovland (b. 1890)
Inaccurately spelled Haveland in
some 1903/1904 newspapers.
Leigh was a student at the Yates
school. She was the daughter of salesman, Norwegian
John Peter Hovland (1863-1946) and Minnesota native,
Anna Lien Hovland (1862-1920), and cousin of Clyde
Thompson, who also died at the Iroquois.
Leigh had one sibling, older
sister Edna Beatrice “Eva” Hovland (b.1887
Minnesota) who survived the Iroquois fire (see left). The Hovland family lived at 31 Humboldt Blvd.
Before moving to Chicago, the
Hovlands lived in Albert Lea, Minnesota. John
Hovland worked in the clothing industry, employed by
Carson, Pirie, Scott, general manager of garment
manufacturer, F. Siegel & Bros and later as a
co-owner with his son in law in a coat manufacturing
firm, Sardeson-Hovland-McCohn Co. John Hovland
served as a secretary in the Iroquois Memorial
Leigh's father found her body at
Jordan's mortuary. Leigh was buried with her parents
in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.
Twenty-one year old Clyde
Thompson (b. 1882)
Clyde was a University of
Wisconsin freshman visiting relatives in Chicago for
the Christmas holiday. He was the nephew of John and
Anna Hovland, cousin of their daughters, Leigh and
Edna Hovland, with whom he attended the theater.
Clyde was the oldest son of Ole
T. Thompson (1855-1919) and Sophia Hovland Thompson
(1856-1918) who made their home at 520 Egan Avenue
in Madison, South Dakota, with Clyde’s two brothers
and a sister.
Some 1904 books and newspapers
inaccurately reported that Clyde and his thirteen
year old cousin, Leigh Hovland, were engaged.
Clyde's body was taken to Cleveland's mortuary and
identified by his uncle, John Hovland.
Sixteen-year- old Abigail
“Abbie” M. Raymer (1887-1918) and in a separate
party her mother and two sisters
Abbie was one of three children
born to Mary Jane Gallagher Raymer (1862-1945)* and Canadian, Walter John Raymer (1864-1935), a
Chicago alderman and
manager of the Chicago branch of the
Connecticut-based American Pin Company, makers of
the Puritan pin. Abbie's mother and two sisters were
in a separate theater party, seated on the ground
floor, from which they escaped, reportedly as the
first to emerge from the theater. Her
sisters were twelve-year-old Alice Raymer
(1890-1979) and ten-year-old
Ellen May Raymer (1892-1946). None of the
Raymers were sitting where they intended when
entering the theater. Both parties wanted
seats in the dress circle but Abbie's group instead
were seated in the third floor balcony and Mary and
the girls were on the ground floor. Walter
Raymer learned of the fire while in a meeting at
City Hall. He ran to the theater and found his
wife and two younger daughters soon enough but could
not find Abbie. She had escaped and taken a
streetcar home but before that was known he searched
for her for many hours through morgues and
Two years after the fire, in
1905, Abbie was attending the Lewis Institute with
two other's of her fellow FPC Iroquois survivors,
Edna and Mable Hunter.† The Raymers lived at 1738
In the summer of 1913 Abbie
traveled to England on board the Carmania. Five years later
at age thirty she died and was
buried in the Mt. Carmel cemetery. I don't know the
cause of her death but the 1918 influenza epidemic
crested in Chicago that month.
Her sisters, Alice and Ellen,
went on to marry and raise families.
Walter Raymer continued to serve on the Chicago city
council until 1906. He would later serve
as president of the Chicago school board, campaign
for Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and own multiple banks.
"Bertha" Ackerman (1887-1958)
"One of the Iroquois sufferers,
Miss Lillian Ackerman, a student of the Northwest
division High School, is seriously burned about the
head and face and will lose her eyesight."
Lillian did not lose her vision.
Six years after the fire she spent the summer
teaching housekeeping to tenement children, by 1922
was teaching at the Lake View High School in Chicago,
by 1930 was an elementary school principal and
retired in 1953.
She was the daughter of German
immigrants, realtor Henry Ackerman (1846-1976) and Barbara Ackerman (1855-).
One 1904 newspaper reported that
she carried a child out of the Iroquois, climbing
over one of the accordion gates, which would have
been difficult to impossible. She may have
climbed over the gate but not while carrying a
child. Though not permanently
blinded, her burns were severe and her parents were
first to file suit for $20,000 in damages. In 1909
the family received a $750 settlement from Fuller
Construction, one of only thirty-five awarded. The
family lived at 836 Armitage.
Sixteen-year-old Florence N.
Florence was the daughter of
salesman James Francis Nicholson (1858-1906) and
Ellen "Nellie" Joy Nicholson (1859-1906). She had
three sisters (Mabel, Jessie and Evangeline) and a
brother (James Jr.). The family lived at 230
Florence remained in the Chicago
area, marrying a foreman at the Edison company,
William Joseph Malooly (1885-) and raising six
Sixteen-year-old Edna Beatrice
"Eva" Hovland (1887-1971)
as Haveland in
some 1903/1904 newspapers, Edna was the sister of Leigh Hovland
and cousin of Clyde Thompson, both of whom died at
the Iroquois. See family info in Leigh's bio.
LIke her sister, Edna was born in
Minnesota. She married Wisconsin native, coat
manufacturer, Orville Almond Sardeson, and they had
Eighteen-year-old Edna Sloan
Hunter (1885-1955) and her twenty-year-old sister,
Mabel Hunter (1883-1948)
Edna was seriously burned,
requiring twelve square inches of grafted skin. The
skin was donated by her classmates. (See
accompanying story.) The Hunter girls lived at 85
Humboldt. Blvd. in Chicago with their parents, both
Ohioans, wool merchant Samuel Sloan Hunter
(1850-1909) and Josephine Estelle Whitaker Hunter
(1851-1917), three brothers, Samuel Taylor Hunter
(1876 -1927) Paul Laubie Hunter (c.1877) and Thomas
Wayne Hunter (1891-1964).
Samuel Hunter was a traveling
salesman and the family moved frequently; each of
the five children born in a different state.
In 1905 Edna and Mable attended
the Lewis Institute with a fellow FPC club Iroquois
survivor, Abbie Raymer. As adults Edna married a
Pennsylvania man, Arthur H. Granger (1867-) of
Westport, Connecticut, and Mable became a
Edna received a $750 settlement for her injuries
from Fuller Construction, the company that built the
January, 1904 newspaper
[Note that the term
"cuticle" was used as a synonym for
epidermis in the early 1900s.]
FIVE GIVE UP SKIN TO SAVE
Three Young Women and Two
Men Allow Seven Square Inches of Cuticle to
be Taken From Arms.
With their arms bared to the keen edge of
a surgeon's knife, five young friends of
Miss Edna Hunter, who was seriously burned
In the Iroquois theater disaster,
unflinchingly and willingly gave up strips
of their cuticle in order that their
companion might go through life unscarred.
Altogether seven square inches of akin were
taken from the contributors and grafted on
the ear, scalp, and throat of the
unfortunate girl. Miss Hunter's ear was so
badly burned that it had granulated and It
was found necessary to cover the member with
skin and mold It back into some semblance of
an ear. The persons making the sacrifice
were brought In one at a time and the thin
layers of cuticle taken off with a
razor-like scalpel In the experienced band
of Dr. Carl Beck.[‡] The operation was
performed with the greatest dispatch, so as
to minimize the time the skin would be
Before the operation the
arms of the girl who underwent the ordeal
were washed with an antiseptic wash and then
bandaged to prevent contamination. While
this was going on the patient was put under
the influence of ether.
The first to bare her arm
to the knife was Miss Bessie Sloan, from
whom two strips of skin were taken, this
being applied to the ear of the patient. The
others followed In quick succession, the
operation consuming one hour. Those who gave
their cuticle for the operation were: Bessie
Sloan, Washington Boulevard. Lela Sloan,
sister of Bessie. Howard Sloan, brother of
Bessie. Louise Taylor. 1767 Humboldt
boulevard, Samuel T. Hunter, brother of the
patient. May Ackerman. whose sister was
badly injured in the fire and Florence
Nicholson also offered their services, but
they were not needed. Miss Hunter was
reported very strong after the operation and
Dr. Beck feels assured her recovery will be
Miss Hunter was a member
of the FPC club of eight young women who
attended the theater on the afternoon of the
fire. Of these, two lost their lives, Viva
Jackson and May Marx. Others of the party
were Lillian Ackerman, who was injured;
Abbie Raymer. daughter of Alderman Raymer,
Florence Nicholson, and Edna Hovland. Miss
Hunter Is the daughter of Samuel S. Hunter,
a woolen merchant at 175 Dearborn street.
Discrepancies and addendum
* Early newspapers reported that Abbie's mother organized the Mr. Bluebeard
outing but Mary Raymer was quick to make a public denial. Amidst
a torrent of newspaper
inaccuracies, Mrs. Raymer's denial seemed punctilious but the denial may have been directed by
Chicago prosecutors, or by a husband savvy in legal
snarls. Her daughter's Iroquois theater party included Viva Jackson and May Marx who
became the figureheads for all Iroquois victims when the city took Iroquois management to court.
Any blurring of culpability would have been
† The Lewis Institute was a
junior college that merged with the Armour Institute
in 1940 to become today's Illinois Institute of
Dr. Carl Beck (1864-1852), a
German immigrant, became
an attending surgeon at Cook County Hospital, as
well as teacher at University of Chicago medical
school. He was responsible for several breakthrough
medical techniques and was a pioneer in
reconstructive and elective plastic surgery.
He was from a family of physicians with three
brothers in the medical profession.
Another Iroquois victim who required extensive skin
grafting was Mary Lutiger. Her physician was
Dr. Edward Brougham at the Passavant Hospital.
Englewood High School
sorority 8 teenage girls
Iroquois Theater families
faced tombstone decisions
Weiskopf and Lilly Doerr died at Iroquois Theater
Other discussions you might find interesting