Friday, August 18, 2017


Don't miss the double giveaways at the end of the post--but please read the post first!

OPHELIA is Bride Brigade book 4. I love Ophelia’s gentle nature and loving heart. Certainly her experiences might have caused another to hate and turn to violence. So often we hear on the news of terrible incidents of child abuse that resulted in the child’s death or near death. Seldom can we learn of the continual abuse which creates life-long emotional and physical problems and sometimes contributes to criminal behavior.

In my mind, there is nothing worse than child abuse. We are here to protect those weaker than us, not prey on them. According to an article in the New York Times, each day in the Unites States at least three children die from parental mistreatment. I was interested to learn about the first documented case of child abuse, Mary Ellen Wilson. Please stay with me even though this is a long blog. This is important information!

Mary Ellen was born in 1862 to Frances and Thomas Wilson. Her father was killed in battle at Cold Harbor. Her mother worked two shifts as a laundress at a New York hotel. As was a custom at the time, she boarded Mary Ellen for two dollars a week, which consumed her widow’s pension. After Frances missed payments and visitation several times, the woman turned Mary Ellen over to New York City Children’s Charities. Later when Mrs. Wilson came to visit Mary Ellen, she was told the child had died.
From there, the child’s luck continued downhill. She was placed with Mary and Thomas McCormack. Mary went on to marry Francis Connolly/Connelly following Thomas' death. According to Mary McCormack Connolly's court testimony, Thomas McCormack, Mary Connolly's first husband, claimed to be Mary Ellen Wilson's biological father.  The Department of Charities placed Mary Ellen into the McCormacks' care illegally, without any documentation.
Thomas McCormack signed an "indenture" agreement upon retrieving Mary Ellen from the Department of Charities' care, but did not explain his or his wife's relationship with the child to the Commissioner of Public Charities and Correction. This body administered the city's almshouse, workhouse, insane asylums, orphanages, jails, and public hospitals. The McCormacks were required to report the child's condition annually to the Department. According to Mary Connolly's later court testimony, this only occurred once or twice during Mary Ellen's stay.
Thomas McCormack died and his wife married Francis Connolly/Connelly and moved with him and Mary Ellen to an apartment on 41 Street in Hell’s Kitchen. It was at this address that neighbors first became aware of young Mary Ellen's mistreatment. Her foster mother forced her to do heavy labor, repeatedly beat, burned and cut the child, and locked her in a tiny closet. She was not allowed to go outside or even to look out the window but no one came to her rescue.
When the Connollys moved to a new address, one of the concerned neighbors from their 41st Street apartment asked Etta Angell Wheeler to check on the child. Some accounts say Mrs. Wheeler was a Methodist missionary who worked in the area and others that she was an employee of the New York Department of Public Charities and Corrections (and I insist she deserved the Angell part of her name). Wheeler, under the pretext of asking Mrs. Connolly's help in caring for Connolly's chronically ill and home-bound neighbor gained access to the Connollys' apartment to see Mary Ellen's state for herself. When Mrs. Wheeler saw the glaring evidence of severe physical abuse, malnourishment, and neglect, Wheeler began to research legal options to redress the abuse and protect the young girl.
Some jurisdictions had laws prohibiting excessive physical discipline and New York permitted the removal of neglected children. However they determined they would not intervene and Mary Ellen was not removed from the care of Mrs. Connolly. If Mary Ellen's treatment wasn’t severe enough, one wonders what would be! 

Apartment in which Mary Ellen lived before rescue

After finding the local authorities reluctant to act, Wheeler turned to a local advocate for the animal humane movement and the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Henry Bergh. He made it clear that his work was as an individual and not part of his office of the ASPCA. However, he had powerful ties in the community which made people take the case seriously. Once he was involved, Mary Ellen was rescued from her home within forty-eight hours.

Mary Ellen when rescued

Mary Ellen was ten but malnutrition made her only the size of a five or six year old. Her face was blemished because the previous day Mrs. Connolly had slashed her with scissors. The child was carried into the courtroom wrapped in a blanket and screaming. She feared Mary Connolly would punish her for leaving the apartment. A policeman gave her a peppermint stick to calm her. Once she settled down, she revealed a horrific life.
On April 9, 1874, Mary Ellen testified, “My father and mother are both dead. I don‘t know how old I am. I have no recollection of a time when I did not live with the Connollys…Mamma (Mrs. Connolly) 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.(A rawhide horse whip was found at the apartment.) 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. She struck me with the scissors and cut me; I have no recollection of ever having been kissed by any one—have never been kissed by mamma. I have never been taken on my mamma‘s lap and caressed or petted. I never dared to speak to anybody, because if I did I would get whipped…I do not know for what I was whipped—mamma never said anything to me when she whipped me. I do not want to go back to live with mamma, because she beats me so. I have no recollection ever being on the street in my life.”

Mary Ellen after rescue

Wheeler and Bergh successfully removed Mary Ellen from the Connolly home and took Mary Connolly to trial. On April 21, 1874 Mrs. Connolly was found guilty of felonious assault and sentenced to one year of hard labor in prison. Apparently nothing happened to her husband, who certainly had to be aware of the abuse. Even though he might not have participated, neither did he protect Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen was sent to what was basically a reform school for girls who had been in trouble. That was not where she needed to be. Mrs. Wheeler was able to get Mary Ellen released into the custody of her family and the child went to live with Mrs. Wheeler’s mother, Susan Angell, where she flourished. She lived there until Mrs. Angell died, at which time she went to live with Etta Wheeler’s sister and brother-in-law. 

Mary Ellen married at age twenty-four to Francis Schutt. He was a widower with three children. Together, they had two daughters, the first named Etta after Etta Angell Wheeler. They also adopted a daughter.

After her first ten years, Mary Ellen deserved all the happiness she found. She died in 1956 at age 92.

Mary Ellen circa 1906

Here's the summary of OPHELIA:
A painful past…
Hope for the future…

Ophelia Shipp wants safety, a home, husband, and to raise a family. To achieve her goal, she travels halfway across the country to a tiny Texas town, Tarnation. What awaits her there must be better than what she left. She longs for a respectable man who will be a gentle and kind husband.

Elias Kendrick had a difficult childhood but he has overcome poverty to build his empire in Tarnation. Now that he owns a successful saloon and the opera house, he is ready to marry and start a family. He’s vowed his children’s life will be different from his—if only he can find the right woman.

Two opposites attract—or are they? Ophelia and Elias must learn to overlook their superficial differences to work out their chance at lasting love.

Amazon buy link is:  

Here’s an excerpt of Ophelia and Elias Kendrick meeting at the first reception:
“What brings you to Tarnation, Miss Shipp?”
“Same as the others I suppose and there’s no point pretending otherwise. I want a kind husband, a secure home, and children. This appears to be a nice town even though it’s small. I notice there’s even an opera house.”
His smile broadened. “That there is. In fact, I built the opera house only a year ago. The manager and I try for a variety of acts so that by the end of the season, everyone has enjoyed at least a couple of shows.”
She leaned forward, happy to know he was so fair-minded. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy them all. Actually, I’ve never been to a live performance.” Oops, why did she have to confess that?
He leaned back and his eyes widened. “Never? You mean except at school, of course.”
A blush’s heat seared her face. How embarrassing to admit she was a country bumpkin who had done nothing. “My father was very strict. I couldn’t appear in or attend school plays. Mr. Kozlov has invited me to the opera house opening performance in two weeks. I’m looking forward to the event.”
Was that disappointment she saw flash across his face? “You’ll enjoy Geraldine Chitwood. We were exceptionally fortunate to book her. Normally, she only plays larger towns more easily reached. Being without railway access places us at a severe disadvantage.”
She had to stop herself from rubbing her sore rear. “Oh, I haven’t forgotten that stage ride.” She leaned toward him. “Tell me about yourself, Mr. Kendrick. Besides owning the opera house, I mean.”
“I’m twenty-nine and never married.” He took a deep breath and averted his gaze before he spoke. “If you led such a quiet life that you weren’t allowed to attend plays, then you’ll no doubt look down on me because, as well as the opera house, I own the local saloon.”
She hoped she hid her surprise that Lydia had included a saloon owner in this group of “acceptable” men. What should she say? A saloon owner here went against everything she’d ever been told. Yet, didn’t she trust Lydia? And, Mr. Kendrick appeared so nice. Think, what would Lydia or Jo say?
“I seek never to pass judgment, Mr. Kendrick. I don’t approve of drunkenness but I know most men enjoy meeting with others and sharing a drink or game of cards.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Very broad-minded of you. Do you play cards, Miss Shipp?”
Relief relaxed her and she couldn’t help laughing at his question. “I don’t play anything. All I’ve ever done is work.”

Don’t forget the giveaway! There are two. One is from me for $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal cash to one commenter on one of the seven blogs about the Bride Brigade, ending with the release of PRUDENCE on August 25. Winner will be announced on August 28.
The other—which makes mine look paltry—is Kathy Habel’s $250 Cash Back to School Giveaway. Look for the Rafflecopter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photos, Google commons except my cover, which was designed by Skhye Moncrief


Mary Preston said...

A fascinating post thank you.

I look forward to reading more.

Unknown said...

Amazing story. So sad a child had to be rescued by the Aspca. Ophilias book looks interesting.

Unknown said...

Great post, Carolyn. In the 19th century, no one was more abused than orphan kids. Sad, sad, sad. Beautiful cover for the book. Sounds like a good read, too.

Unknown said...

Your posts are so interesting! Mary Ellen was so beautiful wasn't she?