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Fighting to protect children

In April 1874, under the guidance of social activist Etty Wheeler, 10-year-old Mary Ellen Wilson told a New York court of her almost daily whipping by her stepmother. The request for intervention was repeatedly refused, and Wheeler turned to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for help.

Its president Henry Bergh agreed that the child was not her guardians' property and established American Humane, an NGO fighting to protect harmed creatures, including children.

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It took thousands of years for the European culture to realise that a child is not an object but a human being.

German educator Friedrich Fröbel gave lectures on returning children to their childhoods and encouraged adults to provide children with care and free education.

In the 18th century, it became the norm again to abandon unwanted children. They usually went to care facilities, but few survived into adulthood. Condemnation by the Catholic and Protestant churches did not help.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the custom of entrusting the care of offspring to strangers fell away. Parents were urged to provide their offspring with love and a sense of security.

Christians condemned the practice of abandonment of newborns and ordered followers to care unconditionally for every child. This trend became so strong that it survived the fall of the Empire. Unwanted children ended up in shelters opened by monasteries.

During the Middle Ages, families decided the fate of the children. The canon law of the Catholic Church stated that a bride had to be older than 12 and the groom, 14. But the father, desiring to increase his resources and prestige, looked for a daughter- or son-in-law immediately after a child's ...

  • In ancient Greece, babies were often left by the road or in the garbage. If a passer-by took the child, it was often raised for the slave market. This is because children were considered private property.
  • The Romans followed the custom to ...

At first, corporeal punishment was the primary tool in the education process. In the 17th century, philosopher John Locke urged parents to use praise to stimulate children to learn and behave well.

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