Woman of the Century/Dorothea L. Dix

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DIX, Miss Dorothea L., philanthropist and army nurse, born in Hampden, Me., in 1802, and died in Trenton. N. J., 7th July, 1887. Her father, a Boston merchant, died in 1821. and Dorothea started a school for girls in that city. She became interested in the convicts in State prisons, visited them and worked to secure better treatment for them. Her school work and her philanthropic labors broke down her health in 1833, when she was prostrated by hemorrhages from the lungs. Having inherited a small fortune, she went to Europe for her health. The voyage benefited her, and in 1837 she returned to Boston and renewed her labors for the paupers, lunatics and prisoners, in which she was assisted by Rev. Dr. Channing. The condition of affairs in the East Cambridge almshouse aroused her indignation, and she set about to secure an improvement in the methods of caring for the insane paupers. She visited every State east of the Rocky Mountains, working with the legislatures to provide for the relief of the wretched inmates of the jails, prisons, alms-houses and asylums. In Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania she was especially successful in securing legislative action to establish State lunatic asylums. In January, 1843, she addressed to the Legislature of Massachusetts a memorial in behalf of the "insane persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens; chained, naked. beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!" The result was a great improvement. In twenty States she visited asylums, pointed out abuses and suggested reforms. She succeeded in founding thirty-two asylums in the United States, in Canada, Nova Scotia, Guernsey and Rome. She secured the changing of the lunacy laws of Scotland. She went to Europe, and there she visited Paris, Florence, Rome, Athens. DOROTHEA L. DIX..jpgDOROTHEA L. DIX. Constantinople, Vienna, Moscow and St. Petersburg in search of her wards. Sensitive and refined, she encountered all kinds of men, penetrated into the most loathsome places and faced cruel sights, that she might render effectual service to men and women in whom the loss of reason had not extinguished the human nature, in which her religious soul always saw the work of God. The years between her return from Europe and the outbreak of the Civil War Miss Dix spent in confirming the strength of the asylums that had sprung from her labors. On 19th April. 1861. she went to do duty as a nurse in the Union army. During the war she was chief of the woman nurses, and to her is due the soldiers' monument at Fortress Monroe. She established a life-saving station on Sable Island, and. after the war. took up again her asylums, seeking their enlargement, improvement and maintenance. At eighty years of age a retreat was offered her in the Trenton asylum, which she was wont to call her "first-born" child. There, after five years of Suffering; she died. Besides being the author of countless memorials to legislatures on the subject of lunatic asylums. Miss Dix wrote and published anonymously "The Garland of Flora" (Boston, 1829), "Conversations About Common Things," "Alice and Ruth," "Evening Hours" and other books for children, "Prisons and Prison Discipline" (Boston, 1845). and a great number of tracts for prisoners.