The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York in 1866. It was the first organization of its kind in the US. Its focus was on the welfare of animals (i.e. how work horses, common on New York streets, were treated).
In 1871, a woman petitioned the ASPCA to intervened on behalf of Emily Thompson, an orphaned 8-year-old girl, who was being physically abused by her foster mother. ASPCA investigators were sent to the child’s home and verified the injuries.
A court ordered her removed, and tried and convicted the foster mother. However, Emily recanted her testimony and the sentence was suspended.
Three years later, the ASPCA became involved in a case related to Mary Ellen Wilson, another child at risk. Mary Ellen, 9 at the time but looking like a 5-year-old, was often left locked alone in her tenement apartment and was the victim of cruel beatings by her foster mother.
Staff from ASPCA intervened, as individuals, not representatives of the organization. On April 9, 1874, the police rescued Mary Ellen and her foster mother was charged and convicted of assault.
This case ultimately led to the formation of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. That same year, the American Humane Association (later called American Humane) was formed with the principle goals of “the prevention and suppression of cruelty, especially of cruelty to children and animals”. (Ascione)
Another group, the American Humane Education Society was formed to promote programs in schools and homes across the country. By 1910, there were 247 state or local humane socieities that included the welfarepf both animals and children within the scope of their efforts. (Ascione)
The Hawaiian Humane Society was organized in 1883 and first served to give a voice to the voiceless; as with others on the continent, not just animals, but also people of Hawaii.
In addition to caring for orphaned children and unwed mothers, much of their efforts were directed at helping work animals such as horses, donkeys, oxen and water buffalo. (Hawaiian Humane Society)
King Kalākaua was one of the founding members and donated a house on the palace grounds to serve as its first office. (Sigall) At the national annual meeting (1921) reported, “that a total of 1,294 cases involving children and adults were investigated in the last year, in addition to 1,301 animal cases.” (National Humane Review)
In 1897, Helen Kīna‘u Wilder was given the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws. She was appointed a special constable by the Marshall of the Republic of Hawai‘i.
She and her friends pooled their resources to pay a salary to hire Chang Apana, our first officer to investigate animal crimes, who inspired author Earl der Biggers’ popular Charlie Chan series of detective novels. (Hawaiian Humane Society)
Lucy Ward, fifth of the seven daughters or Curtis and Victoria Ward, first served as a humane investigator, then later became the organization’s executive director. (Hawaiian Humane Society)
“Armed with her trademark bullwhip, pistol and badge, Lucy tirelessly fought for neglected or mistreated animals and sought to help disadvantaged children. … With a tough as nails attitude and an unyielding passion for animals, Lucy was one of the most visible champions of animal welfare.” (Humane Society)
Another Humane Society leader was Clorinda Lucas. She notes, “My first social work job was with the Humane Society when they took care of children. I was there, I guess, about three or four years and then I went to the New York School [of Social Work] and got my training and then came back to the Department of Public Welfare.” (Lucas; Watamull)
Later, the Society focused only on animals, “And the charter – the Humane Society charter – which had been on the books since 1890, was changed to have all the funds used only for animals, cause the children’s section was going over (to The Children’s Service Association).”
“(C)ertain members of the board were so afraid somebody would come along and want the children taken care of again so that there’d be less money for the animals, that they pushed it very hard”. (Lucas; Watamull)
Lucas’ daughter, Laura Thompson later became executive director. “(W)e’ve been tied up with animals just about all our lives and of course I’m very happy to know that Laura’s interested in animals too.” (Lucas; Watamull)
Since 1942, the Humane Society’s busy shelter in the heart of Mo‘ili‘ili has become a community hub for animal lovers featuring programs and services focused on strengthening the human-animal bond: rescuing the abused, engaging volunteers, fighting for better laws and caring for more than 20,000 animals a year.
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Susy Ruddle says
Peter, As an active Board Member of the Hawaii Island Humane Society I am so grateful for this article (which was forwarded to me by cousin Sharon Solmssen). While my husband is closely related to Aunty Laura Thompson and our shelter was begun by the Greenwell Family I chose to carry on because of the need for animal welfare across our islands. There are many naysayers and animal rights activists that would love to shut us down, but I am here for the long run, to carry on the legacy of those that saw many years ago that which we still find challenging today. Your article confirms my commitment to this organization which spans across our islands for not only the animals in need but because of my deep roots in these islands. Mahalo, Susy Chillingworth Ruddle