As part of the preparation to writing my book, Animal Dharma, I have been researching Mary Ellen Wilson. She was the young girl in Manhattan in the late 1870s who was badly beaten and abused by a married couple who, under extraordinary circumstances, ended up ‘caring’ for her. The reason why Mary Ellen is so important is because she was rescued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as there was not equivalent organization to protect children. Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA in 1866 and went on to help establish the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874.
Presently, I’m reading a book, Out of the Darkness by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoirtz, M.D., which is a fact-based fictionalized account of what happened to Mary Ellen Wilson. It’s a fascinating chapter in the history of the animal rights movement, which I’m using as a signature topic to introduce the close relationship between human abuse and animal cruelty. Out of the Darkness may not be great literature but it is a great read as it brings vividly to life in my imagination an important moment when it was clearly demonstrated that those who rescued animals also cared for people. If only more people who cared about their own kind would think more about those who are other species.