Today's Memory

Dorothea Dix’ birthday

Dorothea Dix’ birthday

Dorothea Dix’ birthday

Originally shared by Ed Pearce

Mental health activist Dorothea Dix was born on April 4, 1802 in the town of Hampden, Maine and spent most of her childhood in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Her itinerant worker father Joseph was frequently away from home, and her mother suffered from debilitating bouts of depression. The oldest of three children, Dorothea ran her household and cared for her family members from a very young age.

Though Joseph Dix was a strict and volatile man prone to alcoholism, he did teach his daughter to read and write, fostering Dorothea’s lifelong love of books and learning.

At the age of twelve, Dorothea sought refuge with her wealthy grandmother in Boston to get away from her alcoholic and abusive parents.

She established her own school in Boston, running it successfully until 1834, when a tubercular illness, a recurring affliction, forced her to give it up.

In 1841 Dix volunteered to teach a Sunday school class at the jail in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. The thoughtless confinement of mentally ill persons in cells with criminals disturbed her deeply. After touring similar jails throughout Massachusetts she revealed in a public report the shocking conditions she had found. As a result of the reaction to her report special hospitals for mental patients were built in more than 15 states and the movement spread to Canada and Europe.

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