Dix, Dorothea

Dix, Dorothea (Lynde)

(1802–87) reformer, nurse; born in Hampden, Maine. She left an unhappy home at age ten to live with her grandmother in Boston; by age 14 the resourceful and determined Dix was on her own and teaching school in Worcester, Mass. In 1821 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. After a period of invalidism, she dedicated herself to the quiet study of conditions of insane asylums, prisons, and alms houses, at first in Massachusetts and eventually in many states, Canada, and Europe. What she found appalled her: men and women chained to the walls of tiny, dark and fetid rooms, ill-clothed and -fed and treated brutally when they were noticed at all. Remaining in the background, Dix used influential political leaders to broadcast her findings. From 1842–45 she traveled more than 10,000 miles on her investigations. The results were a gradual and continuing improvement of conditions. New asylums were built in many states, and others improved; more humane methods of caring for the insane were adopted. In June 1861 Dix became superintendent of women nurses for the federal government, in which role she oversaw the recruitment, training, and placement of some 2,000 women who cared for the Union war-wounded. After the war she resumed her work among the insane, traveling widely in Europe and Japan. Hardworking, dedicated to the humanitarian cause in spite of continuing illness, she could seem cold and even distant; "I have no particular love for my species," she once said, "but own to an exhaustless fund of compassion." She died in a Trenton, N.J., hospital she herself had founded.

Dix, Dorothea

(1870–1951) syndicated columnist who gave advice to the lovelorn. [Am. Pop. Culture: Misc.]