Dorothy Dix

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Dorothea Dix

    In 1812 a 10 year old was given the responsibility of raising herself and her two younger brothers, this overwhelming task was in conjunction with the care-taking of her mentally ill mother and alcoholic father.  Looking back on her life, the events of that fateful winter day visit in 1841, shaped her passion and future endeavours. The suffering of the insane inmates at the East Cambridge Jail, changed her forever.  In retrospect, this sudden flash (heart wrenching visit) was the catalyst of inspiration that shaped her unwavering desire to help the weak and the mentally ill, this would be her calling. The girl was me. As I mentioned, In March 1841 I visited Cambridge House of Corrections to teach sunday class to female inmates. That  day forever changed my life. I saw the mentally ill were living together with inmates they were living under poor conditions in which the patients were chained in dark enclosed spaces, lying in their own filth and wearing inadequate clothing. They were also physically and sexually abused. This caused me to take matters into my own hands, which lead me to deliver a report to the Massachusetts State Legislature regarding the poor living conditions at the prison. At first, I was criticized and the reports were denied, but after hiring an independent observation group, the legislature allocated funds to expand the State Mental Hospital at Worcester. What a victory this was.

    This began my drive for improvements of jails and care of the mentally ill in Massachusetts. This lead to the winning court battles for the mentally ill. In 1845 I wrote “Remarks of prison and prison discipline of the United States” which discussed the reforms that I wanted the government to implement. Some of the reforms that were to be implemented were the educating of prisoners and separatiion of various types of offenders which included murderers, rapists, and kidnappers from the mentally ill. I continued to advocate for these issues in...
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