The Asylum Reform

Of The Second Great Awakening,; Brodrick Starr

Basis of the Reform and Goals

The American Asylum Reform had its roots in the common treatment of mentally unstable people, which, when informed or witnessing it, many people found to be repulsive, and inhumane. Insane asylums were not meant as hospitals to cure the illnesses that the patients had, but merely as prisons, and housing chambers for the mentally ill, and often in horrible conditions, oft akin to dungeons; held by chains. The main goal of the Asylum Reform was to make the change between prisons for the mentally ill, and instead becoming hospitals where the mentally ill could recover at, and eventually leave once the had been turned to their fullest mental capacities.

Leaders of the Reform

Dorothy Dix (1802-1887)

Already a strong reformist and motivated toward the common welfare and prosperity, she was first enlightened to the terrible conditions the mental ill were housed in when she was teaching a Sunday School class for women at the East Cambrigde Jail, and found the inmates to be in unsegregated between men and women, or between petty criminals and serious offeneders, as well as the entire complex to be unheated whatsoever, leading her to wonder what conditions inmates of other facilities might endure, including prisons, jailhousesm, mental asylums. Finding the conditions to actually be worse than she anticipated, she set about educating people's upon the plight of inmates and "patients" alike, and was likely the greatest driving force between both reforms in mental asylums, and in prisons.


Benjamin Rush (1746-1813)

Founding father of America, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He is also considered to be the Father of American Phyciatry, and was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Philadelphia, known for his promotion and use of moral treatment to cure patients of their disorders, as well as requiring that all hospital staff be well-educated, intelligent, and most of all, sensitive to the needs and feelings of the patients.

Pre-Civil War Achivements

Though many of this reforms achievements came later in it's history, much was still accomplished in the Second Great Awakening era's time period, such as the Massachusetts vote to reform and expand the State Mental Hospital of Worcester, and a federal grant for the use of land and it's income for the bind, deaf, poor, and insane. Sadly, the bill was vetoed, and never passed. During the civil war, the focus shifted to the treatments of the injured, but returned to the focus on the mentally ill again shortly after, ending with the conditions we today associate with psychiatry wards, sterile, clean, rooms, but with soft colors, warm halls.