Dorothea Dix : An Extraordinary Woman Who Wore Many Hats

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Dorothea Dix was an extraordinary woman who wore many hats: family caregiver, teacher, author, advocate, social reformer, school and hospital founder, and superintendent. Dorothea Dix held one role more important and noteworthy than any of these however; she was a nurse. Dix’s work advocating for prisoners, the mentally ill and women changed the profession of nursing, as well as aspects of the healthcare system, forever. Dorothea Dix was born on April 4, 1802 in Hampden, Maine. She was the eldest of three siblings, who were born to a mentally ill mother and a fanatically religious, alcoholic, and sometimes abusive, father. Although her childhood was far from ideal, her father valued education and taught Dix to read and write at a young age. Dix became the caretaker of the household at a young age and sacrificed her childhood to take care of her two younger brothers. At age 10, Dix left Maine and moved to Boston to live and study with her grandmother. At age 14 she began teaching in Worcester, Massachusetts and in 1819, she founded a schoolhouse for young women called the Dix Mansion. It was not only a school for young women, but also partially a charity; Dix allowed poor and economically challenged young women to attend for free. Dix was a teacher for 25 years in Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, before finding her true calling. She began teaching Sunday classes at East Cambridge Prison, a women’s prison, in March 1841. Dix was utterly appalled at the treatment that

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