Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilsonby Eric Shelman, Stephen Lazoritz
Pub. Date: 04/01/1999
Publisher: Dolphin Moon Publishing
In New York City back in April of 1874, a most unusual event took place. A severely abused nine-year-old girl named Mary Ellen Wilson became the first child in America to be rescued from an abusive home. She had been beaten, burned, slashed with scissors, locked in a closet, and had never been outside of her tenement home in over 7 years. Thanks to the concern and dedication of a missionary named Etta Wheeler, the child was finally saved from her cruel captors. Henry Bergh's ASPCA -- yes, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- was instrumental in securing her rescue. When no other agencies would become involved, the ASPCA used its power and influence to not only save Mary Ellen, but to charter the first organization of its kind to prevent cruelty to children, the NYSPCC -- the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This book remains the ONLY book that tells the dramatic story of Mary Ellen's life and rescue.
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Mary Ellen: Out of the Darkness is an amazing book with a riviting story. It is novel based soley on Mary Ellen Wilson, the first child abuse case in this country. Hers is a tragic story of living with the true evil mother who was raising her after her birth mother gave her up when she could no longer care for her. She was given to the Department of Charities and adopted by Francis and Mary McCormack, who Francis claimed was his daughter. At the time in the 19th century children were considered chattel. She was locked the house all day. She slept on a pallet on the floor and never had clothes enough to warm her in the frigid New York Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. She never went to school and had no friends. She was locked in darkened locked room, beanten and forbidden to go outside except to her small yard. When they moved to Hell's Kitchen she was finally noticed by neighbors. One neighbor, Etta Wheeler gained access to her apartment and saw the mistreatment. Since at that time local officials were unwilling to get involved in the few child cruelty laws, she finally turned to Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA. Through their efforts, Mary Ellen was removed from the home. The story is well documented and well written. It is a fascinating read and impossible to put down.
Review of Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoritz, M.D. Dolphin Moon Publishing, 2003 I chose to review this book because it explains the job of a social worker in the early days of the profession. The book appealed to me as an author and advocate. Set in New York City immediately after the Civil War, this book offers a powerful story in a historical context. Using an original style that combines journalism with fiction, the writers completed a work of art that is based on a true story. The protagonist, Mary Ellen Wilson, was a real orphaned child who experienced devastating cruelty at the hands of the first woman to be tried and convicted of child abuse, Mary Connolly. The story climaxes when Etta Wheeler, a social worker Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Elbridge Gerry, ASPCA attorney, come together to rescue Mary Ellen. It¿s nearly inconceivable that animals were awarded victims¿ rights before children. Thomas Wilson was an immigrant from Ireland who fled the potato famine to shuck oysters at a New York City hotel. In 1861 he married Frances Connor, an English immigrant who he¿d met while she was a laundress at the hotel. While he was on the front lines during the Civil War, she gave birth to their daughter, named Mary Ellen. The year the child was born was the same year that Tom Wilson died in battle, 1864. Frances found it difficult to work and care for her child, so she sought the services of a woman named Martha Score. Childcare for the working poor in the tenements of New York City provided meager nutrition and crowded conditions with no sanitation. However, Miss Score took good care of the baby while Frances worked long hours at the hotel. Travel through the tenements was treacherous at night, so Frances could not visit her child as often as she wished. After her husband died during battle, Fanny turned to alcohol for solace, leading to the loss of her job. Eventually, Fanny died in an ¿inebriate¿s asylum.¿ When the war ended, working women returned to housekeeping as their husbands went to work. This left Miss Score with no income, thereby having to abandon the then two-year old Mary Ellen to Blackwell Island almshouse. Mary Ellen was illegally adopted to the evil Mrs. Connolly, where she suffered for seven years. Etta Wheeler worked for St. Luke¿s Mission she cared for the ¿outdoor poor¿ and frail elderly in the slums of the city. When neighbors spoke about the cries of a child called Mary Ellen, Miss Wheeler used all available resources to rescue Mary Ellen. However, she was often told by pastors, police, and lawyers to not interfere in the family¿s business. Undaunted by the advice, Etta persisted in her rescue efforts, eventually aided by Henry Bergh of the ASPCA. In 1874, with police assist, Mary Ellen was carried out of the abusive home, covered with a horse blanket provided by the ASPCA. The court proceedings set a precedent: ¿There had never been a recognized way to remove a child from an unfit home.¿ The jury trial resulted in felony assault charges against Mrs. Connolly. Etta Wheeler¿s sister, who lived on a farm in upstate New York, legally adopted Mary Ellen. Etta continued her social work in the tenements of New York City, where she was needed most. Mary Ellen eventually married, and her daughters spoke of their mother¿s burns and cuts that never fully healed. However, Mary Ellen lived until the age of ninety-two, surviving her husband by thirty-one years. Meanwhile, Mr. Bergh founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Mr. Gerry was responsible for forming the initial laws pertaining to the rights of children. This story will cause the reader to wince at the cruelty and rejoice at the rescue. Perhaps the most poignant message in the book comes with the ending: ¿Perhaps we should see Mary Ellen not as the victim of abuse, but as the survivor, and as a per
This book has taught me that there has been a major change in the United States. It helped me to relise that i have a great life and i shouldn't take that for granted. Everyone should read it. It was very important to me. It taught me a lot.
You will be touched by the passionate woman that came to Mary Ellen's rescue and always remember the strings which were all that she had to keep her company during the long, lonely, miserable hours.