We are beyond excited to bring to you CPS: Season 1 – Part 1 of “Little Mary Ellen”. We begin with the story that shaped child protective services in America and explores what foster care looked like in the late 1800s.
The first part of the two part episode, will feature the story and the second part will feature a discussion of that story from different child protective services perspectives. We hope you will follow us on social media to participate in the discussion of Part II.
Full audio will be released through popular podcast platforms on in Summer of 2023 but can be heard early here.
Our first Child Protective Services podcast takes us all the way back to where laws and practice to prevent child abuse began. This is because of the long and interesting life of a little girl named Mary Ellen Wilson. Much of the controversy begins in 1874, the year Mary Ellen’s caregiver was taken to court for abuse.
No Child Protective Services?
One shocking takeaway from Mary Ellen’s case is the role the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) plays in Mary Ellen finding freedom from her abuser.
Not Without Controversy
Wait! Wait! There are many in the child welfare field that think Mary Ellen’s story has been purposely twisted to be a more shocking tale and they challenge some of the information that has been broadcast by very trusted sources. In our digging, we find that there are a lot of differeing accounts of the story and a lot of history that many Americans would most likely wish was forgotten.
SOURCES FOR THIS PODCAST:
“CHILD CARE AGENCIES TO BE CONSOLIDATED.” New York Times, 12 June 1944, p. 22.
Children’s Aid. “The Orphan Train Movement.” Children’s Aid, https://www.childrensaidnyc.org/about/orphan-train-movement.
“THE CUSTODY OF MARY ELLEN WILSON. .” New York Times, 1 May 1874, p. 2.
History.com Editors. “Tenements.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 22 Apr. 2010, https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/tenements.
“LITTLE MARY ELLEN FINALLY DISPOSED OF.” New York Times, 27 Dec. 1874, p. 12.
Markel, Howard. “Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/health/15abus.html.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON. FURTHER TESTIMONY AS TO THE CHILD’S ILL TREATMENT BY HER GUARDIANS.” New York Times, 12 Apr. 1874, p. 12.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON. FURTHER TESTIMONY IN THE CASE TWO INDICTMETS FOUND AGAINST MRS. CONNOLLY BY THE GRAND JURY.” New York Times, 14 Apr. 1874, p. 2.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON. MRS. CONNOLLY, THE GUARDIAN, FOUND GUILTY, AND SENTENCED TO ONE YEAR’S IMPRISONMENT AT HARD LABOR. WORKING MEN’S FREE READING-ROOM.” New York Times, 28 Apr. 1874, p. 8.
“THE MISSION OF HUMANITY.; CONTINUATION OF THE PROCEEDINGS INSTITUTED BY MR. BERGH ON BEHALF OF THE CHILD, MARY ELLEN WILSON.” New York Times, 11 Apr. 1874, p. 2.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON.” New York Times, 14 June 1874, p. 10.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON.” New York Times, 2 June 1874, p. 8.
“MARY ELLEN WILSON.” New York Times, 22 Apr. 1874, p. 8.
Montanari, Giulia. “Mary Ellen Wilson: When Abused Children Had Fewer Rights than Pets.” Medium, History of Yesterday, 21 Nov. 2021, https://historyofyesterday.com/mary-ellen-wilson-the-abused-child-rescued-by-animal-rights-activists-9dfb5b1f100a.
“MR. BERGH ENLARGING HIS SPHERE OF USEFULNESS.” New York Times, 10 Apr. 1874, p. 8.
“MRS. E.A. WHEELER, CHILD RESCUER, DIES.” New York Times, 12 Dec. 1921, p. 15.
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. Another Reporter Suckered by the Myths of Mary Ellen (and an Amazing Number of Other Myths as Well), 1 Jan. 1970, https://www.nccprblog.org/2009/06/another-reporter-suckered-by-myths-of.html.
“The Orphan Train Movement in the Mid-1800s to Early 1900s.” PBS LearningMedia, Iowa PBS, 16 Jan. 2021, https://whyy.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/iptv_wbot_20151115_westbyorphantrain_01/wbot_20151115_westbyorphantrain_01/.
“OUR CITY CHARITIES VERSUS THE CASE OF MARY ELLEN.” New York Times, 16 Apr. 1874, p. 4.
“Our History.” Sheltering Arms, Sheltering Arms, https://shelteringarmsny.org/history/.
Shelman, Eric A., and Stephen Lazoritz. Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson. Dolphin Moon Pub., 1998.
“The Sheltering Arms.” New York Times, 25 Dec. 1864, p. 8.
Watkins, Sallie. “The Mary Ellen Myth: Correcting Child Welfare History – Jstor Home.” JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23715954.
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