​Early Life:
Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Lynde Dix was born in Hampden, Maine on April 4, 1802 (Reddi, 2005). She lived in an unstable home as a child due to her mother being mentally ill and her father an alcoholic (Reddi, 2005). This resulted in Dorothea and her brothers often being neglected throughout their childhood. Eventually, Dorothea took on the responsibility of caring for her younger brothers, neglecting her own childhood in the process (Reddi, 2005).

Dorothea was a well educated individual. She was taught by her father how to read and write at a young age (Casarex, 2000). Dorothea later took on this role for her younger brothers, teaching them how to read and write (Casarex, 2000). This act demonstrated her calling in life and assisted in her determination to open a school house for young women. In 1821, Dorothea founded a teaching school for young women (Casarex, 2000). However, due to sickness and her grandmother's death, Dorothea was urged to stop teaching (Casarex, 2000). During this time off, Dorothea began to research and study the condition of jail and asylums (Casarex, 2000). Disgusted by her findings, Dorothea began to advocate for the rights of these individuals.

Aspirations and Accomplishments:

In March 1894, Dorothea Dix was inspired to begin her journey in inspecting and bettering the conditions in asylums all over the world. She was a teacher in and East Cambridge jail and was shocked to see that the jail was unheated and shared between criminals, children and mentally challenged individuals (Schlatter, 2009). These bothering conditions inspired her to inspect and promote change to asylums and jails all over the world.

Dorothea Dix travelled throughout the world to inspect asylums and prisons for more than thirty years and strived to increase the conditions for the mentally ill (Schlatter, 2009). To better the living conditions of the mentally ill in the Worchester insane asylum located in Massachusetts, she influenced them to expand it from 120 beds to 320 beds (Schlatter, 2009). A great accomplishment of Dorothea Dix was in Rome when she inspected the asylums and stated that the the thousands of priests, nuns and monks were not enough to give intelligent and effective care (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2003). She declared that in order to provide ultimate care, the clients needed health care professionals as well as the spiritual sovereignty. As a result, a hospital was built that would provide the proper care that Dorothea Dix had spoken for (Encyclopedia of World Biology, 2003). She also visited and successfully encouraged reform in many other hospitals all over Europe, such as in Greece, France, Germany and Holland (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2003).

Contribution to nursing:

The contributions that Dorothea Dix made to nursing can be exemplified with how she constantly went beyond her role as a nurse to help those less fortunate. Dix realized mentally ill patients and individuals in jail were mistreated. She wanted to provide equal care to the mentally ill and the individuals within various jails and fought in court to provide them with sufficient care (Reddi, 2005). This example continuously provides all nurses throughout time with a role model that went above and beyond expectations.

She also helped by creating many new facilities and she also aided in hiring new staff members to each new hospital established (Reddi, 2005). This provided nurses with more job opportunities because more individuals were being taught to be a nurse and influenced many new individuals to consider nursing as a profession.

In 1861, Dorothea was recruited into the civil war as a military nurse (Reddi, 2005). With this opportunity and despite her low ranking, Dix was able to converse with military officials and managed to increase the responsibilities of the woman that were military nurses (Reddi, 2005). Not only did Dix provide nurses with more education and job opportunities but she also
amplified nurses' roles and responsibilities.


Dorothea Dix was a leader in the nursing profession serving as an advocate for the mentally ill and prison inmates, both of which might have otherwise gone unheard (Reddi, 2005). Her contributions were crucial in the implementation of client advocacy as she fought relentlessly for the human rights of clients (Reddi, 2005). It is important for nurses today to remember and honor those brave, independent women who were not afraid to stand up for the human rights of those who could not stand for themselves. Her efforts lead to many new hospital facilities being built across the United States, Canada, and Europe (Reddi, 2005). She also improved the healthcare of soldiers during the Civil War (1861) (Reddi, 2005). Dorothea was truly a remarkable humanitarian as she dedicated her life to improving the lives of others. She rose above her negative upbringing and set her efforts towards making positive changes in healthcare . After 41 years of taking care of others, she retired at the age of 82 (Reddi, 2005). Dorothea is among the pioneers of modern nurses who are responsible for implementing values such as compassion, empathy, dignity and caring into the nursing profession (Reddi, 2005). Her efforts were recognized as she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall Of Fame in 1979 (National Women’s Hall Of Fame). Her efforts have greatly impacted the evolution of healthcare and the humane treatment of clients.

Related Links:


Casarex, T.B. (2000). Dorothea Lynde Dix . Retrieved December 3, 2009 from
Encyclopedia of World Biography. (2003). Dorothea Lynde Dix. Retrieved December 5, 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5229/is_2003/ai_n19146089/
National Women’s Hall Of Fame. (n.d.). Women of the hall. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from
http://www.greatwomen.org/home.php advocate-crusader/ai_n38142648/
Reddi, V. (2005). Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887). Retrieved December 6, 2009 from
Schlatter, L. (2009). Dorothea Lynde Dix; Advocate and Crusader for the Mentally Ill. Retrieved on December 7th, 2009 from
http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/telegram-gazette-worcester-ma/mi_8005/is_2009_April_5/dorothea-lynde-dix-Change 0 of 0
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