Etta Wheeler

Etta Wheeler was a Methodist social worker who brought about the first case against child abuse in the U.S. In 1874, through the reports of neighbors, she discovered Mary Ellen Wilson, a nine-year-old girl who was being cruelly tortured by her stepparents. But there were no laws against child abuse at the time and although she went to the police, the courts, and the church, Wheeler was powerless to stop the parents. She turned to Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who obtained custody of Mary Ellen. Bergh sent Mary Ellen's stepmother to prison only by bringing the little girl before a judge and invoking the laws against abusing animals. Thanks to Wheeler and Bergh, the first child protection laws came into existence.

Date:
1880 circa 5 years
Original Format:
Photographic Print
Item#:
MES21250
Height:
2069px
Width:
1490px
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