On a cold winter day in 1938, a social worker walked anxiously to the door of a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse. Investigating a case of possible child abuse, the social worker soon discovered a 5-year-old girl hidden in a second-floor storage room. The child, whose name was Anna, was wedged into an old chair with her arms and legs looking like matchsticks - were so frail that she could not use them.
Anna's situation can only be described as tragic. She was born in 1932 to an unmarried and mentally impaired woman of 26 who lived with her father. Enraged by his daughter's 'illegitimate' motherhood, the grandfather did not even want the child in his house. Anna therefore spent her first six months in various institutions. But her mother was unable to pay for such care, so Anna returned to the hostile home of her grandfather.
At this point, her ordeal intensified. To lessen the grandfather's anger, Anna's mother moved the child to the attic room, where she received little attention and just enough milk to keep her alive. There she stayed - day after day, month after month, with essentially no human contact - for five long years.
Upon learning of the discovery of Anna, sociologist Kingsley Davis (1940) travelled immediately to see the child . He found her at a county home, where local authorities had taken her. David was appailed by Anna's condition. She was emaciated and feeble. Unable to laugh, smile, speak or even show anger, she was completely unresponsive, as if alone in an empty world.