Dorothea Dix

explanatory Essay
1574 words
1574 words

Dorothea Dix

Born in 1802, Dorothea Dix played an important role in changing the ways people thought about patients who were mentally-ill and handicapped. These patients had always been cast-off as “being punished by God”. She believed that that people of such standing would do better by being treated with love and caring rather than being put aside. As a social reformer, philanthropist, teacher, writer, writer, nurse, and humanitarian, Dorothea Dix devoted devoted her life to the welfare of the mentally-ill and handicapped. She accomplished many milestones throughout her life and forever changed the way patients are cared for. She was a pioneer in her time, taking on challenges that no other women would dare dream of tackling.

Born in Maine, of April, 1802, Dorothea Dix was brought up in a filthy, and poverty-ridden household (Thinkquest, 2). Her father came from a well-to-do Massachusetts family and was sent to Harvard. While there, he dropped out of school, and married a woman twenty years his senior (Thinkquest, 1). Living with two younger brothers, Dix dreamed of being sent off to live with her grandparents in Massachusetts. Her dream came true. After receiving a letter from her grandmother, requesting that she come and live with her, she was sent away at the age of twelve (Thinkquest, 4). She lived with her grandmother and grandfather for two years, until her grandmother realized that she wasn’t physically and mentally able to handle a girl at such a young age. She then moved to Worcester, Massachusetts to live with her aunt and her cousin (Thinkquest, 5).

The thought of her brothers still being in her former home environment in Maine hurt her. She tried to think of a way to get at least one of her brothers, the sickly one, to come and be with her. She knew that her extended family was financially able to take in another child, and if she showed responsibility, there would be no problem (Wilson, 40). She found a vacant store, furnished it, and turned it into a school for children (Thinkquest, 5). At the age of seventeen, her grandmother sent her a correspondence, and requested her to come back to Boston with her brother (Thinkquest, 6).

When she returned to Boston, she asked her grandmother if she could start another school in her grandmother’s dining room. After a bit of opposition, her grandmother agreed (Compton’s,...

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...r. Daniel Hake Tuke, after Dorothea’s Death:

“Thus had died and been laid to rest in the most quiet, unostentatious way the most useful and distinguished woman America had yet produced,” (Wilson, Pg. 342).

This statement is also considered her epitaph (Thinkquest, 16).


1. Dorothea Dix:

2. Dorothea Dix: Biography

3. Mappen, Mare; Dorothea Dix & the State’s First Lunatic Asylum

4. National Women’s Hall of Fame: The Women of the Hall: Dorothea Dix

5. Naythons, Matthew, M.D.; The Face of Mercy: A Photographic History of Medicine at

War” U.S. News&World Report, 10-11-93, pp.72-79

6. The Reader’s Guide to American History: Dorothea Dix Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991

7. McHenry, Robert: Dorothea Dix: Her Heritage: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous

American Women Pilgrim New Media, Inc., 1995, 1.00 Ed.

8. Compton’s Encyclopedia: Dorothea Dix

9. Three Inspiring Women: Dorothea Dix

10. The Asylum Warden: Dorothea Dix

11. Dorothea Lynde Dix

12. Wilson, Dorothy Clarke: Stranger and Traveler Little, Brown and Company, Boston,


In this essay, the author

  • Describes dorothea dix as a social reformer, philanthropist, teacher, writer, nurse, and humanitarian who devoted her life to the welfare of the mentally-ill and handicapped.
  • Narrates how dorothea dix dreamed of being sent off to live with her grandparents in massachusetts, but was sent away at the age of twelve.
  • Narrates how they tried to find a way to get at least one of their brothers, the sickly one, to come and be with them, knowing that their extended family was financially able to take in another child.
  • Narrates how compton taught until 1835, when illness from tuberculosis and exhaustion set in. she then traveled to europe to recuperate, under the advice of friends and family.
  • Narrates how she was shocked when she saw that mentally ill patients were being put into the jails, and appalled at the conditions they were put in.
  • Narrates how the woman, with the help of a massachusetts state legislature, presented her reports from her visits to jails, work houses, and hospitals in january of 1843.
  • Narrates how they caught a stick of wood and laid upon him until he cried for quarters; they beat him long enough until the man knew they were his master.
  • Analyzes how the massachusetts legislature ignored dorothea dix's requests for better conditions and funding, despite her being a woman.
  • Describes how dix traveled over 3,000 miles in three years of non-stop traveling, visiting and documenting various conditions and pleading with the state governments to better the establishments.
  • Opines that they are the hope of the poor crazed beings who pine in cells and stalls, cages and waste-rooms.
  • Narrates how, tired of state-by-state campaigns, she worked on federal reform. she appealed to the federal government for 10 million acres for the insane, deaf and dumb.
  • Describes how dorothea dix became the union superintendent of female nurses during the civil war. she had spent more than twenty years caring for the mentally ill.
  • Explains that dorothea dix, also known as "the voice of the mad," erects thirty-two of them and improves hundreds of other hospitals.
  • Opines that they would like to see a fountain for animals set up in boston on milk street, where they have often seen tired draft horses pulling heavy loads to the dock.
  • Explains that whittier's fountain was created after her death in 1887, at the age of 85. in response to her fountain, she had a poem engraved there.
  • Opines that dorothea dix spent her last years in the guest quarters of a state hospital she had helped found 35 years earlier in new jersey.
  • Explains that this statement is also considered her epitaph (thinkquest, 16).
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