Anna Briggs, 101, lived an animal rights lifestyle before there was a movement

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
Anna Catherine Briggs, 101, died on February 15, 2011 in
Berryville, Virginia. Co-founder in 1948 of the National Humane
Education Society, Anna Briggs was the youngest and last living
representative of a minority faction within early 20th century
humane work who demonstrated an “animal rights” philosophy more than
50 years before the emergence of the animal rights movement.
Leaders of the proto-animal rights faction included David and
Diana Belais, who founded the Humane Society of New York in 1893,
the New York Anti-Vivisection Society in 1908, and the short-lived
First Church of Animal Rights in 1921; Flora Kibbe, who founded the
Bide-A-Wee Home in 1903; and James J. Briggs, prominent within the
cause in the Washington D.C. area long before he met Anna, who was
then Anna Reynolds.

The proto-animal rights activists often found themselves in
conflict with the views of American Humane Association, the American
SPCA, and other mainstream humane societies. But longtime AHA
executive Sydney H. Coleman had personally known ASPCA founder Henry
Bergh, Massachusetts SPCA founder George Angell, and Carolyn Earle
White, founder of five organizations including the Women’s Humane
Society and American Anti-Vivisection Society. From that
perspective, Coleman in Humane Society Leaders in America (1924)
deemed David and Diana Belais, Kibbe, and Briggs to all be worthy
of transient mention, among many others, for “excellent work” in
the spirit of Bergh, Angell, and White.


Born in 1909, Anna Reynolds lost her father, Robert
Reynolds, “when I was four,” she remembered in her 1990
autobiography For The Love of Animals. This left her mother, Marie
Hahn Reynolds, “with four children to support. She struggled to
keep the family together,” Anna wrote, “but finally took the advice
of relatives and placed us in orphanages. My sister Margaret and I
were sent to St. Vincent’s in Washington D.C.”
At age eight Anna left St. Vincent’s to work for four harsh
years as a domestic servant to an aunt and uncle. The first animal
in her life, and the light of her life at the time, she recalled,
was their caged canary, whose cage she cleaned. Her sister Margaret
was given a puppy named Tut after the Reynolds family was reunited at
Christmas 1922, but within a year Anna was obliged by their mother
to find a new home for Tut because she was female and might have
puppies. Grieving for Tut, Anna in February 1924 became a shelter
volunteer for the Washington Animal Rescue League. On Palm Sunday
1924 Anna adopted her own first dog, Sport, from the Washington
Animal Rescue League. In January 1925, however, her mother
compelled her to find a new home for Sport because he refused to hunt

James P. Briggs

Knowing that Sport would almost certainly be killed if
returned to the Washington Animal Rescue League, Anna wrote to James
P. Briggs. An attorney, Briggs had founded an early no-kill
shelter, the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm, at Potomac, Maryland,
in 1920. James P. Briggs did not respond, and later said he never
received the letter, but Anna met him anyway in a chance encounter
when both noticed a lost collie on a busy street. James P. Briggs
took and rehomed Sport.
Elected to the Washington Humane Society board of directors
in 1919, James P. Briggs started the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm to
demonstrate an alternative to killing homeless animals, under the
auspices of the Washington Humane Education Society, for which he
was president. Maintaining a downtown office as well as the rural
shelter, for about 10 years the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm raised
funds by hosting card parties. Participants included presidential
wives Grace Coolidge and Helen Taft, and actress Minnie Maddern
Fiske, a longtime patron of many humane organizations.
James P. Briggs remained on the Washington Humane Society
board for at least another dozen years. Anticipating that larger,
stronger humane organizations would have more political influence,
James P. Briggs in July 1927 sought unsuccessfully to broker a merger
of the Washington Humane Society with the Washington Animal Rescue
Anna became a driver for the Wash-ington Humane Education
Society in 1925.


James P. Briggs “inspired me, nurturing my childlike love
for anmals into an adult commitment, encouraging me to be a
vegetarian, as he was,” Anna wrote in 1990. “Until then, I had
never heard of a vegetarian, but in practice I had just about become
one. For Mr. Briggs, being a vegetarian followed out of his
commitment to animals. He told how cattle and sheep on trains and in
slaughterhouses suffered miserably,” and later took Anna to
personally witness cattle slaughter. “From that day on, I have
never eaten flesh, and I have never missed it,” Anna recounted.
“Nor did my children eat meat or fish. Yet, contrary to popular
belief, we were all healthy, able to out-work many of our
meat-eating counterparts!”
James P. Briggs, then 52, married Anna on December 9,
1927, her 18th birthday. They had four children together during the
next 10 years, whom Anna raised while running a candy store to try
to fund the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm.
James P. Briggs vigorously lobbied for animals, achieving
the repeated introduction into Congress of unsuccessful bills seeking
to prohibit Washington D.C. from selling pound dogs to the Edgewood
Arsenal for use in experiments. He also wrote frequent letters to
newspapers on behalf of animals and human victims of biomedical
The arrival of the Great Depression in 1929 brought trouble
on multiple fronts. James P. Briggs and three other members of the
Washington Humane Society board were charged in early 1931 with
violating an injunction against conveying funds to the Humane
Education Society, which had become the Humane Education Society of
Maryland. The charges were dropped, but in July 1931 James P.
Briggs was fined $50 because the Be Kind to Animals Farm Rest Home
was deemed to be “maintaining a nuisance,” according to the
Washington Post.
The Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm property was foreclosed in
1932, “for want of $6,500,” Anna wrote. But before it closed in
October 1933, she remembered–and the Washington Post archives
confirm–Anna and James P. Briggs found new homes for all of the more
than 250 animals who had been in their care. Bide-A-Wee Home founder
Flora Kibbe took 150 of the displaced animals to the shelters she
operated in New York City, Wantagh, and Westhampton for successful
rehoming. This appears to have been the first major transport of
animals from the South for adoption in the Northeast, a modus
operandi popularized more than 50 years later by the North Shore
Animal League. Kibbe died in 1943. Inspired by her example,
Marianne H. Sanders formed the North Shore Animal League in 1944 in
the Town of West Hempstead, just beyond the area that Bide-A-Wee
then served.
With all the Be Kind to Animals Rest Farm animals placed,
Anna closed the candy store and took a government job. She remained
involved in humane work as a volunteer for the Animal Relief & Humane
Education League, later known as the Animal Protective Association.
This organization was headed for at least 20 years, 1934-1954, by
Virginia W. Sargent. Volunteering for Sargent during some of the
same years, pioneering humane journalist Ann Cottrell Free
(1916-2004) remembered Sargent in a 2003 oral memoir as one of the
people who most inspired her work many years later.
In honor of Sargent, Anna Briggs named her youngest child
Virginia. Virginia and her husband Earl Dungan followed Anna into
humane work.
Because James P. and Anna Briggs both worked six-day weeks,
they hired nanny Ruby Brown to help with their children. That was
the start of a 50-year association.
First was another crisis. “Briggsie,” as Anna called her
husband, “was working harder than ever to spare dogs from
vivisection, pushing for the passage of the Dog Exemption Bill by
Congress,” Anna recalled. “On September 8, 1945 he traveled to
Philadelphia to talk with colleagues there about the proposed
legislation. I picked him up upon his return, noticing how very
tired he looked and how slowly he walked toward the car. He did not
say much and I did not press him for details of his visit. We had
gone only a few blocks when he asked me to stop. I wanted to take
him to a doctor, but he said no. I soon realized that he was going
into a coma. I rushed him to a hospital, but the shot of adrenalin
he was given did not revive him.”

Suffrage leaders

Apparently through Sargent, Anna became acquainted with
Alice Morgan Wright, originally of Albany, New York, and her
lifelong companion, Edith J. Goode, a native Virginian. Both are
remembered today for the animal foundations that bear their names,
formed after their deaths in 1975 and 1971, respectively. Both were
vegetarians, dedicated to animal welfare since childhood, but were
best known for other reasons.
Wright was a senior at Smith College in Massachusetts when
she met Goode, then a freshman. Both inherited considerable
estates. While Goode worked quietly in the background, Wright rose
to prominence with the Collegiate Equal Sufferage League, and by
1909 was also recognized as a sculptor. Sent to Paris to study, as
recipient of two major art awards, Wright became involved in both
the French and British suffrage movements.
Most notably, Wright arranged speaking appearances in Paris,
the U.S., and London for suffragist orator Emmeline Pankhurst in
1910-1912. After the London appearance erupted into the riot
remembered in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, Wright and Pankhurst
served two months together in the Holloway Gaol. Wright went on to
become recording secretary for the New York State Women’s Suffrage
Party, one of the organizations most influential in winning passage
of the 19h Amendment in 1920. Goode and her mother Jane McKnight
Goode meanwhile became founding members of the National Women’s
Party. Begun in 1913, it promoted legislation until 1997, and
still exists as an educational foundation and museum.
Wright resumed sculpting, winning enduring distinction,
until 1945, when she and Goode participated in forming the United
Nations. Attempting to promote a proposed global charter on animal
welfare which was initially presented to the League of Nations in
1922, and is now advanced by the World Society for the Protection of
Animals as the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, Wright and
Goode in 1945 cofounded the National Humane Education Association.
This morphed into the National Humane Education Society when
Anna Briggs became involved in 1948.

Racial integration

Funded by Wright, Anna Briggs and her sons built the first
of the National Humane Education Society’s Peace Plantation no-kill
sanctuaries at Sterling, Virginia. It opened on July 1, 1950.
Briggs hired Ruby Brown as full-time live-in shelter manager, making
Brown apparently the first African-American shelter manager in U.S.
humane history. Brown remained in that capacity until her death on
September 8, 1984.
Morgan in 1963 drafted the National Humane Education Society
statement of “12 Guiding Principles,” which call for opposing
“cruelty in all its forms,” including “To strive for an end to
bullfighting, rodeo, and all cruel sports wherever performed and
wherever represented as art or as entertainment; to strive to
abolish cruel trapping; to discourage hunting, especially as a
sport; to oppose all poisoning of wildlife; to protect and conserve
wildlife for its own sake and not as a resource for exploitation; to
aid or initiate programs for slaughter reform; to teach humane
handling and care of work animals and food animals; to advance
programs for the humane sterilization of cats and dogs in order to
reduce their overpopulation; to provide for the rescue, housing and
feeding of lost, stray or abandoned animals, until suitable homes are
found; to urge that when it is necessary to put any tame animal to
death, unless some better method of euthanasia is available, it be
so arranged that the animal be held in the arms of some human friend
while it is being given a painless, preliminary anesthetic, to be
stroked and comforted with reassuring words until it loses
consciousness, after which the lethal agent should be quickly
administered; and “to recognize in animals their capacity for
friendship and their need of friends. To befriend all Earth’s
creatures, of the land, the sea and the air; to defend them against
ravages by mankind; and to inspire in human beings compassion for
The original Peace Plantation moved from Sterling to Leesburg
in 1965. Anna Briggs’ daughter Virginia Dungan opened the second
Peace Plantation at Walton, New York in 1983, eight years after the
National Humane Education Society inherited and sold Wright’s Albany
home to fund the expansion.
The Edith J. Goode Residuary Trust for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals meanwhile funded the National Humane Education
Center, built and briefly operated by the Humane Society of the U.S.
at Waterford, Virginia. Soon after Wright’s death in 1970 the
facility was transferred to Loudoin County Animal Control. The Goode
Trust continues to make grants to other humane projects.
National Humane Education Society projects while Goode and
Wright were alive included rescuing about 50 animals who were left in
Willard, Virginia, after the town was expropriated and demolished
to make way for Dulles Airport, opened in 1960. Wright also lived
to see Briggs evacuate more than 300 cats from the railway tunnels
beneath Grand Central Station, beginning in 1972. Long fed by two
New York City subway workers, the subterranean cat colony was
featured in the September 1953 edition of the National Humane Review,
published by the American Humane Association, but when the workers
retired, other humane societies were unwilling to offer the cats
more than a quick death.

Pioneered sterilization

Exactly when the National Humane Education Society began
sterilizing all animals on arrival, not just when adopted, is
unclear, but Anna Briggs in For The Love of Animals acknowledged the
example of Friends of Animals’ original low-cost sterilization clinic
in Neptune, New Jersey, opened in 1957. News coverage mentioned in
1974 that all National Humane Education Society animals were
sterilized, then still a rarity, but this had apparently already
long been Briggs’ practice.
In For The Love of Animals Briggs outlined a vision for the
future of animal sheltering that centered on partnerships of no-kill
nonprofit adoption centers with tax-funded animal control agencies
and subsidized dog and cat sterilization programs. Her ideas were
essentially the core philosophy of the no-kill movement, offered
five years before the first No-Kill Conference, held in 1995.
Briggs attended the third No-Kill Conference in 1997, with
her grandson James Taylor, who is now the National Humane Education
Society chief executive, yet her organization has not emerged as a
leader of the no-kill movement. Partly this is because National
Humane Education Society direct mailings begun in 1986 antagonized
much of the humane community. The typical National Humane Education
Society appeal format for many years opened, “The National Humane
Education Society is now conducting its (year and name of city)
Annual Fund Drive.” Prevailing belief among executives of other
humane organizations was, and is, that such a format is often
misidentified by recipients as requests for money which will be used
to assist local shelters. In addition, the National Humane Education
Society for more than 15 years had an unusually high ratio of direct
mail to program expense. This has dropped in recent years into the
normal range.
The National Humane Education Society in 2000 closed the
Leesburg shelter and opened the Briggs Animal Adoption Center in
Charles Town, West Virginia, where it formerly operated a small
satellite shelter. It also operates Spay Today, a sterilization
program which performs about 5,000 surgeries per year, and makes
grants to other humane organizations.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.