Unusual Brutality: A Horrible Case of Domestic Abuse and Misery 1882


Without exception, the most horrible case of brutality that has ever come to light in a court of justice in this city was brought to the notice of Justice Bergen yesterday morning, when Superintendent Russell, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, led Mrs. Mary Hoolihan to the clerk's desk to make a complaint against her husband, Daniel Hoolihan. The unfortunate woman presented so horrible a spectacle that the clerk of the court, Mr. Wheeler, had to leave his desk, it literally made him sick. She was clad in the coarsest of dress, and had only sufficient clothing to cover her skin. Ordinary night clothing would have been warmer than that which she wore. Her face was one mass of scars and bruises, and worse than all she was blind; her sightless orbs were terrible to look at, and would make the hardest hearted involuntarily turn away after a glance at them. What is worse still, and almost an incredible fact, her blindness was caused by her husband's brutality. Some time ago he knocked her down, and with a cobble stone struck her deliberate and repeated blows over her eyes for the purpose, as he savagely said, of "knocking the daylight out of her."

Her limbs and body were covered with bruises from a beating she received yesterday morning when, because her children were crying from hunger and she dared to ask him for bread, he seized a heavy bed slat, knocked Mrs. Hoolihan down with it, and beat her until she was insensible. Her children are half starved, and have had to rely upon the charity of neighbors for what little they had to eat, for Mrs. Hoolihan has had to beg for herself and them. There are two; one is seven years old and the other only eighteen months. The mother had them both in court this morning, and two more MISERABLE LOOKING OBJECTS OF HUMANITY were never seen. As of the husband could not vent his savage force upon his wife, he had even beaten the children, and the poor little baby had a large cut over its face, which its unnatural father had inflicted by throwing it against the stove.

Hoolihan used to be a conductor; he had been employed on the Fifth avenue and DeKalb avenue roads. He lost both positions through his own carelessness and disobedience of the rules. He has been out of work for some weeks, and during all the time has not given to his starving family a single cent. What little furniture and clothing there were in the house, he has taken out and pawned for liquor. He had a couple of rooms at No. 224 Twenty-second street, and they were in the most filthy condition possible. Yesterday morning he roused up from a drunken stupor and proceeded to collect what few articles there were left in the rooms that he could pawn. His wife was crying and the children were crying too. This enraged him and because they would not "hold their din" he threatened to finish them all and done with them. Mrs. Hoolihan made a remark to the effect that it was no wonder the children cried when they were hungry and when there had not been even a mouthful of bread in the house for days. This awakened the devil within the man, and he seized the bed slat and LEFT HIS WIFE INSENSIBLE ON THE FLOOR, and the helpless infant bleeding near the stove. Since then he has not returned, and he evidently did not mean to. When Mrs. Hoolihan returned to consciousness, she found that the neighbors had entered her rooms, and were trying to restore her. They induced her to take some nourishment, and looked after the children.

One of those thus kindly disposed took the trouble to come down town and inform Superintendent Russell, who went to Mrs. Hoolihan's house yesterday. He could hardly believe the tale of misery and abuse which had been told to him, but when he saw the family, the poverty and the terrible evidences of brutality, he states that half the facts had not been recounted to him. Just as he arrived a deputy sheriff was dispossessing the family. The Superintendent took the case in hand at once; he found and paid for a room for the unfortunate woman in Fifth avenue, saw that she and the children had some food, and then induced her to come to Justice Bergen's court, and make the necessary complaint, upon which a warrant has been issued for her husband's arrest. The police went at once in search of him. The Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children will take charge of Mrs. Hoolihan and her children until some permanent provision can be made for them. From the testimony of many of the neighbors, Mrs. Hoolihan is a hard working, sober, woman. Her husband had not even the excuse that she drank for his brutality, but when he blinded his wife she was helpless to work. The strangest thing is that during all this period of the most horrible and unexampled treatment that she received at Hoolihan's hands, Mrs. Hoolihan clung to him, and time and time again refused to take her friends advice to have him punished and to leave him.

Superintendent Russell said to the Eagle reporter, "It is the worst case I ever saw or heard of, and I have seen a good many."

"Your society, I suppose, will prosecute the man when he is arrested?" said the reporter. "Prosecute him?" replied Mr. Russell; "yes, sir, to the utmost extent of the law."


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Unusual Brutality: A Horrible Case of Domestic Abuse and Misery 1882
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle November 26, 1882
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