Dorothea Lynde Dix was born April 4, 1802 in Hampden, Maine. Dorothea was a social reformer, teacher and author of children’s books. At the age of fifteen, she began a school for girls, as they were not permitted to attend public schools. While working as a substitute teacher at the Massachusetts jail in 1841, Miss Dix discovered that mental patients were housed along-side prisoners. The insane were chained in dungeon cells and living in dreadful conditions. After traveling at length, she discovered that this situation was countrywide. Appalled by these conditions, Dix became an advocate for the rights of mental patients. She lobbied government officials to improve the treatment of the mentally ill. She spent years campaigning for change. As a result of her efforts, the number of mental hospitals grew tenfold over a period of 20 years. Therefore, it was no longer necessary for mental patients to be jailed like common criminals. Within each mental hospital that Dix created, an apartment was set aside for her exclusive use. During the last five years of Dorothea Dix’s life, she became very ill and stayed in an apartment in the New Jersey State Hospital, where she died on July 17, 1887. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1979.
Sources for additional information
Dorothea Dix – http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/dorotheadix.html
North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (2005). Biography of Dorothea Lynde Dix. http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/mhddsas/DIX/dorothea.html