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National Museum of Animals & Society Blog
Continuing National Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week, we’re remembering those who connected the dots centuries ago, before there were formal studies and programs to address the cycle of abuse. These individuals were on to something. Consider that:
Children’s author Sarah Trimmer (1741 – 1810) advocated nurturing in children kindheartedness to animals which she believed and hoped would develop into “universal benevolence” in their adulthood. Her most popular book, Fabulous Histories (later known as The Story of the Robins), addressed this same topic. Published in 1786, it tells the story of two families, that of a robin family and a human family, who learn to harmoniously coexist. At the heart of its lesson, the human children (Harriet and Frederick) and baby robins (Robin, Dicky, Flapsy and Pecksy) learn the importance of embracing virtue and avoiding vices, echoing Trimmer’s Christian beliefs.
Sarah Trimmer was one of the most successful children’s writers of the day. The Story of the Robins was reprinted for 133+ years, well after the First World War, and greatly affected and influenced generations of readers and authors. She was one of the first in a line of humane texts for children. Lydia R. Bailey’s Julia and the Pet Lamb: Or Good Temper and Compassion Rewarded (1866) is a classic example of how humane literature continued on well into the next century. Humane literature of course exists today, but much of it is less religious in nature.
*Statistics provided by Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center.