Bottle and Sponge, a Strange Request
Lizzie's Pessary (continued from main Lottiepedia page) In Kate Morgan's plot to blackmail John Spreckels, Lizzie (a.k.a. Lottie A. Bernard, or the Beautiful Stranger) was thus about to create a pessary (induce miscarriage) in herself. See Pessary at Wikipedia for more information, or look it up in other print or digital resources.
What is a Pessary? A pessary historically was a sponge or wad of cloth, used since ancient Egyptian times for medicinal purposes. It is soaked in medicine, and inserted into the female vagina, where its medicinal contents can then proliferate throughout the woman's lower organs. Modern pessaries may be made of silicone and other recent materials. A pessary may likewise be applied rectally in men or women for medicinal purposes. Since ancient times, a well known reason for its use was as an abortifacient (inducing miscarriage, in lieu of having a surgical abortion). TOP
Kate Morgan's Blackmail Plot Kate Morgan placed the already pregnant (not yet showing) Lizzie at the Hotel del Coronado to blackmail John Spreckels, who had nothing to do with her ruination. A key element was for Lizzie to order the bottle and sponge. We know that, when she arrived in San Diego around or after noon on Thursday, 23 November 1892, one of her many seemingly mysterious moves was to walk up C Street to the Hotel Brewster (kind of an 1892 Ramada Inn, with all the comforts a business traveler would need). She inquired there about her 'brother' and his 'wife' (Mrs. and Mrs. Anderson, about whom she would constantly inquire later at the desk in the Hotel del Coronado as well). It is clear that Kate and John, shadowing Lizzie but staying out of sight, left her 'terrible medicines' (as Dr. Mertzmann would later call what he believed were abortifacients, and more than just quinine) with someone at the Hotel Brewster for 'Lottie A. Bernard' to pick up. Poor Lizzie must have felt terribly alone. Kate and John were the only two people she knew in his strange city, in her terrifying situation. They betrayed her, together and separately, leading to the despair that caused her to end it all by buying a gun and shooting herself. TOP
Lizzie tipped bellman Harry West a whole day's wages to bring her the empty bottle and the fresh sponge. The connection is obvious. The empty bottle was for mixing water and her 'terrible medicines.' The sponge was to soak up some of the liquid (in stages, over the next few days) and insert it in her vagina to induce miscarriage. We don't know how Kate Morgan worded the blackmail threat she sent to John Spreckels, but we can imagine it involved Lottie having a very embarrassing, scandalous miscarriage right in the public lobby of his hotel if he did not pay up. The message was, of course, intercepted by Spreckels' vast army of servants, Pinkertons, agents, bankers, and bureaucrats. As subsequent events show, the plot failed, Spreckels avoided any hint of scandal, and Lizzie lay dead. Kate and John got away (for reasons deduced from the mosaic of details, Kate could not have been the deceased Beautiful Stranger). In the subsequent coverup, the story was so muddled that it has remained a mystery for over a century. TOP