Dorothea Lynde Dix

As a psychiatric nurse I have been remiss in not writing of this amazing woman. Born in Hampden, Maine in 1802 of an itinerant, alcoholic Methodist minister and a mother with bouts of depression, she was responsible for her family. Her stern father taught her how to read and from this her love for education grew.

Moving to Massachusetts to live with her affluent grandmother in her mid-teens she began to teach and eventually developed schools throughout the area. It was through a Sunday school class teaching inmates where her advocacy for prisoners began. Here she saw horrific conditions of the incarcerated being mistreated and those incarcerated who were mentally ill. Appalled by the conditions she presented her findings to the Massachusetts state legislature. Widespread reforms were made in the state with Rhode Island and New York to follow. Her reforms went nationally as well as internationally.

During the Civil War she was appointed Superintendent for Nurses. Louisa May Alcott served under Ms. Dix during this time. After the War Dorothea continued her advocacy work for the less fortunate till her death in 1887 at 85. She died at a New Jersey hospital bearing her name and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts.

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