The Women’s Humane Society – Blazing a Trail for Animal Rights

Pictured (from left to right): Suzanne L. Bush

Pictured (from left to right): Suzanne L. Bush

The Women’s Humane Society closed out Women’s History Month with the inaugural “Trailblazer” Award dinner, Thursday, March 31, at the Merion Tribute House in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, honoring former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham.

This event was designed to spotlight a woman who has made great achievements in animal welfare as well as in her own professional field, in the spirit of the organization’s founder, Caroline Earle White.

White was born in Philadelphia in 1833 to Quaker parents dedicated to the abolitionist and suffragist movements. Having witnessed the mistreatment of horses hauling heavy freight down Philadelphia’s streets, White was inspired to establish the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1867. Not allowed to be a leader in the PSPCA because of her gender, she formed a separate branch, the Women’s Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WPSPCA) in 1869, which would eventually become known as the Women’s Humane Society.

Under her leadership, White’s organization championed legislation protecting animals, including enacting and enforcing precedent setting legislation such as the 28 hour law, a mandate that required railway companies to provide facilities to feed, water and rest animals in transit every 28 hours. White created the first animal shelter in the nation, opened “City Depot” to house sick, maimed, or injured animals, established a “Band of Mercy” for the city to teach young children about animal cruelty, and was an anti-vivisection activist.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

147 years later, the Women’s Humane Society continues White’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable and changing the way that the public views animal shelters throughout the country. In that same vein, as Philadelphia’s first female District Attorney (and the longest serving in the city’s history), Lynne Abraham dedicated resources of her office to investigating and prosecuting cases of animal abuse and neglect. She ensured that humane laws were enforced with the notion that the more humane we are as a society toward our animals, the more respect may then be developed for our fellow citizens.

Proceeds from the Trailblazer Award event support the unique programs at the Women’s Humane Society, which in 2015 treated over 6,000 animals in its veterinary hospital and performed over 3,500 spay or neuter procedures to help curb the number of unwanted animals that are surrendered to shelters. The Women’s Humane Society is one of the first animal shelters to treat mental as well as physical distress. Programs include “Story Tails,” bringing children in grades 1-8 in to the shelter to read to the small animals, and the “Shelter All-Stars” provides one-on-one training classes providing socialization and mental stimulation to shelter dogs. The shelter receives no federal, state or local funds and is instead supported entirely by donations from supporters and fees from its services.


Listen to Lynne Abraham interviewed by Jennifer Lynn on WHYY’s Morning Edition.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal