Have you ever wondered who contributed to the changed in mental illness treatment in history?
This would be first of many stories to come (I refer to them as story since I can’t confirm accuracy of all the information I gathered, but still would like to share the extraordinary journeys):Dorothea Dix
After reading a biographic novel written by Jane Kirkpatrick, her tormented childhood and extreme dedication to the cause compelled me to conduct more research into her journey.
Her story is set at the backdrop of nascent enlightenment about mental illness and more human treatment, the mentally ill population is still being mistreated to a large extent:
Dorothea had a difficult childhood with alcoholic father and absent mother. She already showed determination and desire to serve at an early stage.
She had to shut down girl school due to ill health and travel to Europe to recover, which help her to find her calling in lend voice to the most vulnerable and voiceless.
Dorothea traveled 30,000 miles and motivated the legislatures in fourteen states to pass bills for the humane treatment of the mentally ill
She also helped to establish over thirty mental hospital across the country. There were also libraries established in prisons, mental hospitals, and other institutions.
Not satisfied with her success at the state level, she also advocated for a bill nationally level to “set aside 49,473 km2 of Federal 40,000 km2 to be used for the benefit of the mentally ill and the remainder for the “blind, deaf, and dumb”)”
While the bill passed both house and senate after multiple back and forth, it was vetoed by President Franklin Pierce. Disappointed by the defeat of her land bill, Dorothea traveled to England and Europe and conducted further investigations in madhouses in Scotland, which help establish Scottish Lunacy Commission.
Throughout the 1850s she extended her influence across the globe, including the British Isles, France, Greece, Russia, Canada, Rome and Japan with hospitals for the mentally ill being established in those locations.
Besides champion for the mentally ill, disabled population, she also contributed society through her other vocation.
To present a holistic pictures, while her contribution to history is indisputable, she also suffered from ill health and maybe a few character flaw as well.
One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel. By Jane Kirkpatrick Published April 2, 2013 by WaterBrook
How Dorothea Lynde Dix Improved life for the Mentally Ill, Retrive on Oct 27th