Dorothea Dix

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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,

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