The life of today’s Monday Morning Muse is a play waiting to happen.
Gloria Yerkovich was born in 1942 and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. She is an American victim’s rights activist and founder of CHILD FIND, a non-profit organization dedicated to the personal safety of all children. She built the organization from the ground up in 1981 with a few volunteers and two donated rooms from the police department. Yerkovich’s work lead to President Reagan signing The Missing Children Act, which required police to enter names and descriptions into an FBI computer. She was horrified, she said, at a system that had a national computer for stolen cars but not for missing children. Out of this, a national registry of missing children (with a photographic directory) was established. CHILD FIND was the prototype for The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Yerkovich’s activism was motivated by the disappearance of her own daughter, Joanna Harriet Pierce, in 1974. Joanna was abducted by her father, Yerkovich’s ex-lover, Franklin Pierce. He was a well known (and well-off) chemist. It was reported that when Pierce arrived to fetch Joanna (who was 5 at the time) for her first court-ordered visit with him, she cried and did not want to go. Gloria Yerkovich did not see her daughter again for 10 years. Yerkovich knew Joanna would be nearly impossible to find given how much money Pierce had. He was able to move around the globe with their daughter and relocate easily.
CHILD FIND was founded by Yerkovich as a last resort. She’d borrowed and spent $40, 000 on private investigators in attempts to find Joanna. When her loans dried up and she could not break through legal roadblocks, she decided to take matters into her own hands. It wasn’t CHILD FIND that brought Joanna home a decade after her abduction, though. It was Pierce. And here’s where things get interesting (because up until now it’s all been totally mundane, right?).
Franklin Pierce admitted to taking Joanna in 1974 for what was supposed to be a weekend visit and not returning her until 1984, when he was promised that some of the charges he’d face if found would be dropped. He claimed in his testimony however, that he abducted his daughter to save her… from her abusive mother.
During the trial, at which Yerkovich filed a 5.7 million dollar lawsuit against Pierce, Joanna (at this point 20 and living with her father again after only a brief reunion with Yerkovich five years prior) testified against her mother. She claimed that Yerkovich and her husband (Joanna’s stepfather) were abusive and neglectful parents. She said she was struck by Yerkovich almost daily and was once even rendered unconscious after being thrown into a wall. She claimed her stepfather “fondled her” and that she “despised him.” She asserted that she “didn’t care” that she was taken away from her mother. Yerkovich and others pressed that Pierce brainwashed Joanna into believing all of this to be true.
How did it all end? We don’t know. We can’t find the outcome of this trial anywhere. Given that it happened in 1989 and Yerkovich was a National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee in 1993, we’re swayed towards believing that she won… but maybe not. Does anybody else know? Does anybody remember this happening?
It’s stories like this that The Muddy Mary Project wants to provide a platform for. We hope you’re as inspired by Yerkovich and Joanna as we are. Submissions are due June 1st!