Dorothea Dix

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Dorothea Dix – One of the Great Women of the 1800s

Once in a while a truly exceptional person has made a mark on the growth of mankind. Dorothea Dix was an exceptional woman. She wrote children’s books, she was a school teacher, and she helped reform in prisons. Some of her most notable work was in the field of making mental health institutions a better place for the patients that lived in them. Dorothea Dix gave a great deal to humanity and her achievements are still being felt today, especially in the treatment of those with mental disabilities. Dix started out though with very humble beginnings.

Dorothea Dix was born in Hampden, Maine in 1802. Her mother was not very mentally stable and her dad was an abusive alcoholic. The Dix moved from Maine to Vermont just before the British War of 1812. Then, after the war they moved to Worcester, MA. While in Worcester, the Dix had two more children, both boys. The family would eventually break apart because of the mother’s mental state and the father’s drinking.1

Dorothea Dix and her two brothers ended up moving to Boston to live with their grandmother on their father’s side Dorothea Lynde, who was the wife of Dr Elijah Dix.2 Dix helped with the rearing of her brothers as she had done in her parents’ home. The grandmother tried to instill her Puritan ways of Boston’s wealthy into Dix’s mind. Grandmother Dix tried to turn young Dorothea into a nice proper girl from Boston, but that wasn’t in the cards for young Dix. The grandmother had given her dancing lessons and even her own private seamstress. Dix was not into this style of life and she would give some of her clothes away, and food to the poor; which had infuriated her grandmother. This angered the grandmother enough to send youn...

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... Patterson Smith, 1967

Gollaher, David. Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix, New York. Free Press. 1995

Marshall, H.E. . Dorothea Dix, forgotten Samaritan. Chapel Hill. University of North Carolina Press. 1937
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