Dorothea Dix
(1802 - 1887)
Dorothea Dix was a Maine native who changed national attitudes about treatment of the mentally ill. Born in Hampden, Maine, Dorothea Dix left home when she was ten years old and moved in with her grandmother in Boston. She worked as a teacher for many years before she discovered the horrible treatment of mentally ill inmates at the East Cambridge House of Correction. She continued to investigate institutions throughout the state for two years and presented her findings to the Massachusetts Legislature, declaring that people were confined in "cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!" Dix traveled internationally, campaigning for the enlargement or establishment of humane asylums, and decrying the abuse of the mentally ill. When the Civil War struck, Dix was appointed Superintendent of Women Nurses and served until the close of the war. Despite her own poor health, she continued to work for change until her death in 1887.

Source: Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. V. ed. Allen Johnson. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons. 1929.

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