“I Could Trust Mary Anywhere,” Her Weeping Mother Says


Mary Phagan, 14-year-old daughter of Mrs. J. W. Coleman, 146 Lindsay Street, whose slain body was found in the basement of the National Pencil Factory, 37-39 South Forsyth Street. The girl left her home Saturday morning to go to the factory, where she had been employed, to draw wages due her. She was seen on the streets at midnight Saturday with a strange man. She was not seen alive thereafter.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.


Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

“No Working Girl Is Safe,” She Sobs, Overcome by Her Sudden Sorrow.

Lying on the bed in her little home on Lindsay Street, prostrated with sorrow over the murder of her 14-year-old daughter, Mary Phagan, Mrs. W. J. Coleman sobbed out the pitiful story of how sweet and fresh her child had left home Saturday, and issued a warning to all Atlanta mothers to guard the welfare of their own daughters forced to work for a living.

“There are so many unscrupulous men in the world,” she cried. “It’s so dangerous for young girls working out. Their every step should be watched. Mothers should question them and ask them about their work and associates and surroundings. They should continually tell them what they ought to do, and how they ought to act under certain circumstances.”

Girl Liked Work.

She declared that she never would have permitted Mary to go out to work at the age she did—12 years—if it hadn’t been that there were five children in the family and it was absolutely necessary for all of them to earn something toward their support. That was before she married her present husband, Mr. Coleman.

“That was a year ago,” said Mrs. Coleman, “and then it wouldn’t have been necessary for Mary to work. But she had got into the habit of it and liked it, and I thought she could take care of herself as she always had.”

“Oh, the poor baby!” she sobbed. “I did talk to her! I did tell her what to do! I was always telling her! And she took my advice, I know, because she was always so sensible about everything. Besides, she never was a child to flirt or act silly. That’s why I know that when she went away with this man who killed her she was either overpowered or he threatened her.”

Mrs. Coleman said that girls ought to look out for themselves, too, and never permit any familiarity from men.

“When a girl is pretty,” she declared, “naturally she is attractive to men. Mary was pretty, too; and, besides that, she was always happy and in a good humor. She had never stayed out any night before in the two years she had been at work. I could trust her anywhere I knew because she was always so straightforward, and what I thought when she didn’t come home was that she had met up with her aunt from Marietta, who was in town, and had gone home with her and had no way to let me know.”

Too Young to Know.

She covered her face with her hands.

“And to think that at the time I was thinking that she was in the hands of a merciless brute! Oh, if only Mr. Coleman had happened along the street and found her! They tell me she was crying on a corner at 12 o’clock and this man she was with was cursing her when a policeman came up and asked her what was the matter. She just told him she had got dust in her eye. I guess the reason she didn’t say anything was because she was afraid the man would kill her, and, in fact, just didn’t know what to do. She was too young.”

But with everything, Mrs. Coleman said, it wasn’t possible for a mother to be with a child all the time or to stave off all harm that could come to her with advice.

“Even with the greatest care, it looks like things will happen anyway—we don’t know how or why,” she declared, weeping. “Oh, it’s terrible to think of a young girl coming to her death like that! And she had already started home when this man met her and made her come back to town with him!”

So Young and Bright.

“Often I watched Mary on the car when men would look at her,” Mrs. Coleman said, “but she never paid any attention to them. I think she must have made the man who killed her mad, and that’s why he did it.”

She said that when Mary left the house Saturday she had only intended to go to the pencil factory to draw the little salary that was coming to her—$1.60.

“If you could only have seen her,” she told the reporter. “She looked so beautiful and so young and so bright! She said she was only going to see the parade before she came home. And look now! I am so sorry for all other young girls working everywhere! To think that they’re all open to the same things, and there is nothing to protect them; it’s so hard on mothers; it’s so hard on everybody. But there doesn’t seem to be any help for it, and that’s the worst part of it all.”

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Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “‘I Could Trust Mary Anywhere,’ Her Weeping Mother Says,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)