Dorothea Dix

The people in the event

1.) The name of the person or people involved in the event “Dorothea Dix”



2.) When was this person born (and when did they die, if applicable) “She was born in april 14, 1802 and died on july 17,1887”



3.)Why were they involved in the event? “Not long after the outbreak of the Civil War, Dix proposed the plan to the War Department to establish a volunteer corps of women nurses. Commissioned as superintendent of women nurses for the Union Army in June 1861, Dix, 59 and in poor health, began the difficult task of finding nurses and procuring medical supplies. Her lack of administrative experience and her exacting requirements brought complaints from hospital personnel, and in October 1863, Dix' authority was reduced, but she remained a powerful proponent of female nursing.”



4.) Why was the event important to them?



“After the war, Dix continued her work for the mentally ill, raising money for the more than 50 hospitals that had been established as a result of her efforts. In 1881, she retired to one of the first institutions she had helped to found, the Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey.”



5.) What was the major contribution that this person had? “Dorothea Dix was asked to teach a sunday school class for women in a prison

About Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Lynde Dix was born on April 4, 1802 in Hampden, Maine into difficult circumstances—her mother was an invalid and her father, an itinerant Methodist minister, was frequently absent. She received her education in Boston and in Worcester, Massachusetts while living first with her grandmother and then later with her great aunt. At the age of 14, she opened her own school in Worcester, and a few years later, she ran a school for young girls in Boston. The focus of her teaching was building moral character, but she was also fascinated with the study of the natural sciences. She taught the children of many of Boston's elite, including the children of Rev. William Ellery Channing. She was a member of Channing's Unitarian congregation and traveled briefly with the Channing family to the West Indies as the children's tutor. During these years, she also wrote several books for children. After developing tuberculosis and eventually suffering a total physical breakdown from the advanced illness, Dix gave up teaching and spent 18 months in Liverpool, England recuperating.

Upon her return to Boston in 1838, Dix was still weak from her illness, but gradually her health stabilized. In March 1841, she was asked to teach a Sunday school class for women in the East Cambridge jail. Many of the incarcerated women were insane, and Dix found them living in filthy, unheated cells. She appealed to the local court to install stoves in the women's cells and with the help of philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe improved the women's conditions.

Imbued with the spirit of reform, Dix embarked on a study of the prevailing treatment of the mentally ill. She discovered that aside from a few model institutions like the privately run McLean Hospital in Boston, where inmates were treated humanely, most institutions housed the insane under sordid conditions, neglecting and abusing them. As a result, Dix conducted a survey of jails, almshouses, and correctional facilities in Massachusetts, recording in her notebook the shocking details of mentally ill inmates who were chained and beaten. She set forth her findings in an 1843 testimonial read to the state legislature, which after weeks of heated debate finally approved funds for the expansion of the Worcester State Lunatic Hospital (so named at the time).

Encouraged by her success, Dix carried her crusade to Rhode Island and New York, employing the same technique of investigating the existing facilities followed by a testimonial delivered to the state legislature. In both states, she was successful in securing funds for new institutions. She was also responsible for the establishment of new institutions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and some states in the Midwest and the South. Dix' efforts were widely publicized, and reformers in other areas sought her help. Though sympathetic to such causes as women's rights, public education, and abolition, she devoted most of her energies to the mentally ill. She did, however, become involved in prison reform, as numerous mentally ill people were housed in prisons. In her book Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States (1845), Dix advanced such penal reforms as the education of prisoners and the separation of various types of offenders.

Becoming convinced of the need for federal legislation to help the mentally ill, Dix in 1853 tried to get Congress to set aside millions of acres of public land in trust and devote the income to help those with mental illness and the disabled. Though the bill that would have accomplished this passed both houses of Congress, President Franklin Pierce vetoed it.

Not long after the outbreak of the Civil War, Dix proposed the plan to the War Department to establish a volunteer corps of women nurses. Commissioned as superintendent of women nurses for the Union Army in June 1861, Dix, 59 and in poor health, began the difficult task of finding nurses and procuring medical supplies. Her lack of administrative experience and her exacting requirements brought complaints from hospital personnel, and in October 1863, Dix' authority was reduced, but she remained a powerful proponent of female nursing.

After the war, Dix continued her work for the mentally ill, raising money for the more than 50 hospitals that had been established as a result of her efforts. In 1881, she retired to one of the first institutions she had helped to found, the Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey. She died there on July 17, 1887 at the age of 85.