The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson
Mary Ellen Wilson was a victim of child abuse and neglect, after being surrendered by her biological mother. Henry Bergh, President of the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was instrumental in helping to remove Mary Ellen from her abusive home and prosecuting the abusive parents under laws that protected animals. Soon after, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed.
Mary Ellen testified as follows:
“My father and mother are both dead. I don’t know how old I am. I have no recollection of a time when I did not live with the Connollys. …. Mamma has been in the habit of whipping and beating me almost every day. She used to whip me with a twisted whip—a raw hide. The whip always left a black and blue mark on my body. I have now the black and blue marks on my head which were made by mamma, and also a cut on the left side of my forehead which was made by a pair of scissors. She struck me with the scissors and cut me; I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by any one—have never been kissed by mamma. I have never been taken on my mamma’s lap and caressed or petted. I never dared to speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped…. I do not know for what I was whipped—mamma never said anything to me when she whipped me. I do not want to go back to live with mamma, because she beats me so. I have no recollection ever being on the street in my life” Mary Ellen, April 10, 1874 in Watkins, 1990).
Thanks to Henry Bergh and her attorney, along with an advocate named Etta Wheeler, Mary Ellen was eventually placed within a loving home. She went on to marry and have several children, one of whom she named Etta. Not surprisingly, Mary Ellen also fostered a child named Eunice. Mary Ellen’s children described her as “gentle and not much of a disciplinarian.”
You can read more about this case at this link, which is one of the most comprehensive and factual we have seen.
Our CASA volunteers are much like Etta – they diligently ensure that a child is placed in a loving home as quickly as possible. And children who have at least one supportive adult in their lives are much more likely to successfully raise children of their own.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month and we begin by recognizing these first advocates and professionals who ensured that Mary Ellen would live a wonderful life.
Please wear a blue lapel ribbon this month and think of Mary Ellen and all the other children who needed a voice to protect them.