Essay on Life and Work of Dorothea Dix

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The care of mentally ill patients majorly progressed since the 1800’s and much of this advancement must be credited to Dorothea Dix. During part of the 19th century many perceived the mentally ill as ‘lost souls’. People viewed these patients as incurable and helpless. Mental patients were mistreated, taken advantage of, beaten, thrown into unclean quarters, and abused. Dorothea Dix, a pioneer of her time, advocated for the mentally ill. She changed the way these people were viewed and most importantly the way they were treated. Dix rebelled against inadequacies and campaigned, alone, for the rights of the mentally ill. The public, as well as the government, treated the mentally ill as criminals and sent them to live in unfit…show more content…
As Dix continued to teach, she became ill and contracted tuberculosis (Viney, 2008). Doctors encouraged Dix to withdraw from teaching during her illness and Dix complied.
After volunteering to teach a Sunday school class for women at a local jail in 1841, Dix’s mission in life changed and she set forth to make a difference in this type environment. Dix was shocked to have “observed [that] prostitutes, drunks, criminals, retarded individuals, and the mentally ill were all housed together in unheated, unfurnished, and foul-smelling quarters. When asked why the jail was in these conditions her answer was, ‘the insane do not feel heat or cold’” (Bumb, 2008). Dix found the mentally ill in overcrowded areas, chained in poorly ventilated cellars (Viney, 2008). Throughout the 1840’s and beyond, Dix was consumed with creating and putting into action plans to guarantee safe facilities for the mentally ill community. Though not at optimal health, Dix travelled to every state along the east coast creating and employing 32 mental hospitals, 15 schools for the feeble minded, a school for the blind, and numerous training facilities for nurses (Bumb, 2008). Although Dix’s beliefs were radical for her time, she did not relent. Dix proposed a plan that a land-grant of 12,500,000 acres be reserved and used for the benefit of the blind, deaf, mute and insane. The president at the time, Franklin Pierce, vetoed the bill however (Viney, 2008).
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