See H. E. Marshall, Dorothea Dix: Forgotten Samaritan (1937, repr. 1967); S. C. Beach, Daughters of the Puritans (1967); F. Tiffany, Life of Dorothea Lynde Dix (repr. 1971); D. C. Wilson, Stranger and Traveler: The Story of Dorothea Dix, American Reformer (1975); D. Gallaher, Voice for the Mad (1995).
Dorothea Lynde Dix (April 4, 1802 – July 17, 1887) was an American activist on behalf of the indigent insane who, through a vigorous program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress, created the first generation of American mental asylums. During the Civil War, she served as Superintendent of Army Nurses.
Henceforth, Dix traveled from New Hampshire to Louisiana, documenting the condition of pauper lunatics, publishing memorials to state legislatures, and devoting enormous personal energy to working with committees to draft the enabling legislation and appropriations bills needed to build asylums. In 1848, Dorothea Dix visited North Carolina and called for reform in the care of mentally ill patients. In 1849, when the North Carolina State Medical Society was formed, the construction of an institution in the capital, Raleigh, for the care of mentally ill patients was authorized. The hospital, named in honor of Dorothea Dix, opened in 1856. The Dorothea Dix Hospital is slated to be closed by the state by 2008. She was instrumental in the founding of the first public mental hospital in Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg State Hospital, and later in establishing its library and reading room in 1853.
The culmination of her work was legislation to set aside of Federal land (10,000,000 acres for the benefit of the insane and the remainder for the "blind, deaf, and dumb"), with proceeds from its sale distributed to the states to build and maintain asylums. Dix's land bill passed both houses of Congress, but in 1854 President Franklin Pierce vetoed it, arguing that the federal government should not commit itself to social welfare, which was properly the responsibility of the states. Stung by the defeat of her land bill, in 1854 and 1855 Dix traveled to England and Europe, where she reconnected with the Rathbones and conducted investigations of Scotland's madhouses that precipitated the Scottish Lunacy Commission.
Her nurses provided what was often the only care available in the field to Confederate wounded. "The surgeon in charge of our camp ... looked after all their wounds, which were often in a most shocking state, particularly among the rebels. Every evening and morning they were dressed." - Georgeanna Woolsey, a Dix nurse. "Many of these were Rebels. I could not pass them by neglected. Though enemies, they were nevertheless helpless, suffering human beings." - Julia Susan Wheelock, a Dix nurse. Over 5000 Confederate wounded were left behind, when Robert E. Lee retreated from Gettysburg, who were then treated by Dix's nurses, like Cornelia Hancock who wrote about what she saw. "There are no words in the English language to express the suffering I witnessed today ... In 1881, Dix moved into the New Jersey State Hospital, Morris Plains, where the state legislature designated a suite for her private use as long as she lived. An invalid, yet still managing to correspond with people from England to Japan, she died on July 17, 1887. Dix was buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.