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Dorothea Dix

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  1. Dorothea Dix A Voice of Change and Reform…from 1802-1887

  2. Early Life • Born in Hampden, Maine, grew up in Boston. • Suffered from depression herself • Abusive Home Life, left at age 12 to live with grandmother • 1821-1836 opened multiple schools for children- Taught for 24 years • Moved to London, England to seek cure for health • Suffered from what is now known to be tuberculosis • Met prominent Quaker family who believed government should play a large role in social welfare • Was exposed to British “Lunacy Reform Movement” • Returned to America in 1840 to examine Massachusetts asylums • Traveled to many other states • Dix was instrumental in founding the first public mental hospital in Pennsylvania • Appointed Superintendent of Army Nurses during Civil War (a.k.a. Dragon Dix) • Following war resumed crusade to reform improve care of prisoners and mentally ill • Most influential reformer of asylums in the U.S.

  3. Historical Antecedents & Influences • Influenced by Pinel’s ideas about mental illness • Religious woman who believed in humanity as a treatment • Shift in how society viewed mental illness • Civil War times influenced how she treated all her patients: equally, with precise attention and high standards.

  4. “Whatever is done, must be done solely by myself” -Dorothea Dix

  5. Facing Obstacles… • Edward Bangs -Dorothea’s second cousin that helped with her first career as a teacher. • “Mystery Disease” -Dorothea struggled with a number of health problems that restricted her ability to work. • “The insane do not feel heat or cold” • Dorothea clearly was outraged by this claim and wanted to make the conditions for the mentally ill more humane. • She knew she had to do something herself or else nothing would get done. • Delivered report of the outrageous conditions to the Massachusetts Legislature.

  6. And Overcoming Them… • Helped countless other states across the country • 5 million dollars in land grants • Superintendent of the Union army during the Civil war • Revolutionized how people thought of the mentally ill

  7. Dorothea Dix’s Methodology Techniques Level of Involvement When organizing the set-up of a new asylum, she would: Pick out the location for the hospital Plan the details of the architecture Choose the asylum director • When she would inspect an asylum, she would: • Complete detailed research on the conditions in the location of the asylum. • Present the results of her findings to the appropriate legislative body. • Garner the support of influential people and law makers. • Publish her results in Memorials. • It was also noted that the reason she was successful in the South was because she ignored the subject of slavery.

  8. Greatest Achievement… • One of her greatest achievements was putting together a bill for the United States Congress. • This bill provided permanent funding for care of the mentally ill using federal land grants. • The bill was passed by both houses of Congress in 1854, but President Franklin Pierce vetoed it. • President Pierce reasoned that this bill would open up a Pandora’s Box, and that people would still be demanding federal aid.

  9. “She was instrumental in the founding or expansion of more than 30 hospitals for the treatment of the mentally ill” -Reports of Asylum Reformer Dorothea Dix

  10. Past, Present & Future…Influences on Psychology & Reform • She played a prominent role in both the national and international realm, challenging the idea that people with mental illnesses could not be assisted. • Despite diminished resources and little funding for new programs, Dix initiated new projects and supervised the “Restoration and improvement of existing facilities” in the U.S. from 1867 to 1881. • Her philosophical outlook: • a commitment to empiricism, an emphasis on the importance of historical context, and a pluralistic interpretation of causality • Has survived in science to this day

  11. Neglected in History? • Not mentioned in the bulk of scholarly texts (5/53 textbooks & 10% of history books) • Dix did not place her name on the majority of her published works • Extremely humble woman…not to mention the fact she was a woman • She didn’t have a heavy scientific theory explaining how the brain worked so the general public was not interested in her findings.

  12. Bibliography • Brown, Thomas J.. Dorothea Dix: New England reformer. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,1998. • Bumb, Jenn. "Dorothea Dix." Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society. Webster University.Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://>. • Dix, Dorothea. ""I Tell What I Haw Seen” The Reports of Asylum Reformer Dorothea Dix." American Journal of Mental Health 96.4 (2006): 622-624. • Dix, Dorothea Lynde. Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States. Boston: Printed by Monroe & Francis, 1845. • Meyers, Barbara. "The Spirit of Dorothea Dix: Unitarians, Universalists and the Mentally Ill ." Starr King School 1.1 (2002): 1-22. Starr King School for the Ministry. Web. 6 Apr. 2011. • Reddi Ph.D. MHES, Vasantha. "Biography of Dorothea Lynde Dix." The Center for Nursing Advocacy. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. • Schultz, Duane P., and Sydney Ellen Schultz. A History of Modern Psychology. Ninth Edition. New York: Academic Press, 1969.