Mary Ellen's Circle
How one little girl started the child protection movement…
“I don’t know how old I am. …. 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. I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by mamma...”
Mary Ellen Wilson’s story marked the beginning of a world-wide crusade to save children. Mary Ellen Wilson was born in 1864 lost her father at an early age and her mother was unable to care for her alone. Mary Ellen was placed in a boarding home and eventually entrusted to Mary and Thomas McCormack, who severely abused and neglected her. Mary Ellen’s condition came to the attention of a mission worker by the name of Etta Wheeler, who worked tirelessly to bring this child out of her abusive situation. With the help of Henry Bergh, a leader of the animal humane movement at the time, Ms. Wheeler was able to advocate for Mary Ellen and have a Judge intervene.