It was 1911 and wealthy spinster sisters (in their 30s!), Dora and Claire Williamson had arrived on holiday in the United States from Britain. The sisters were free-spirited heiresses with delicate constitutions. They fretted over their health and frequently sought cures for their ailments. In fact, they had been in correspondence with Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard and were excited to undergo her revolutionary fasting treatment. The sisters were disappointed that her sanatorium in the forest in Olalla, Washington was not ready for patients, but the doctor insisted they not delay their treatment. So the anxious and excited sisters rented an apartment in Seattle near Dr. Hazzard’s office and began following the prescribed regimen. The sisters were finally able to move to the new facility, but by then it was too late. Linda Hazzard had control over the Williamson’s finances as well as their minds and bodies. They were separated from each other, subjected to painful and unnecessary procedures, and they were starving. In a moment of weakness, her faith in the treatment waivered, and she reached out to their former nanny and beloved friend in Australia. Of course she dropped everything and immediately booked passage to Washington, unsure if she would arrive in time.
Deadly doctors are not a new phenomenon. Linda Hazzard was not the first medical professional to exploit her patients for her own personal gain and Dora and Claire Williamson were not her first victims. Dora and Claire were independent, intelligent women in their 30s, who if they lived today, would no doubt enjoy all of our juice bars and fad diets.
If you liked the podcast Dr. Death or The Opportunist, you will probably enjoy Starvation Heights. If you want to discuss the case with us, feel free to join us in person next week for Riverinos! We will be in the Community Room at 7pm.