Kidnapped 3 Times by Her Mentally Ill Mother as a Child, Eliza VanCort Helps Women Live ‘Bravely’

Eliza VanCort
2 min readMay 11, 2021


The motivational speaker and author overcame trauma. Now, Eliza VanCort helps women live “unapologetically.”

Here is a link to an exclusive story People Magazine wrote about me today. My mother is still a missing person. I hope is that someone will read this, somewhere, and know what happened to her… So please help me amplify this story… Give it a clap. Share it on social. Whatever you can to amplify our story would be a appreciated. Be well, and give the people you care about a hug. Tell them you love them more than you think you should. Life is so very fragile.

Here’s how my story starts…

The second time Eliza VanCort’s mother kidnapped her, Eliza remembers the feeling of her feet lifting off the ground. Her mother scooped her up and carried her as she ran to a cab.

Just 4 years old at the time, Eliza was on a scheduled visitation with her mom, Mary Louise Marini VanCort, who had recently been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, in a park in Ithaca, New York in August 1975.

We hitchhiked across the country by truck,” Eliza, now 50, tells PEOPLE. “It was a profoundly traumatic experience for me.”

Mary Louise and her husband, H. Matthys Van Cort, had been legally separated for two years before Mary Louise had her first psychotic break at the age of 31 in 1975. Matthys was awarded temporary custody of Eliza. Over the course of the next three years, Mary Louise, a “devoted” and “loving” mother before her illness, kidnapped their daughter three times, first taking her to Texas and then twice to California. This experience — some of it hazy, some of it resulting in harrowing memories highlighted by terror — transformed Eliza’s life.

“You have to be as quiet and small as you possibly can, if you want to survive,” says Eliza of the lesson she learned during these trips with her mother.

Now a motivational speaker and author, Eliza is overturning what trauma taught her.