In nineteenth century, American slaves were freed and animals were protected against cruelty while children were still considered their parents' chattel, to do with as they wished. Not until 1874 was the first court case of child abuse argued. The American Society brought the case, on behalf of a young girl named Mary Ellen for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA successfully challenged the court to recognize that Mary Ellen was covered under laws barring inhuman treatment of animals. Society thus accepted a moral responsibility to protect children, even from their parents.
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