US Η Dix, Dorothea

Dorothea Lynde Dix
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Dorothea Lynde Dix was an American advocate on behalf of the indigent mentally ill who, through a vigorous and sustained 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 a Superintendent of Army Nurses.

Born: April 4, 1802

Birthplace: Hampden, Maine

Father: Rev. Joseph William Dix

Mother: Mary Bigelow

Occupation before War:

School Teacher in Boston, Massachusetts​
School Teacher for poor and neglected Children​
1824 – 1830: Author of devotional books and Children Stories​
Governess on Beacon Hill for family of William Ellery Channing​
Witnessed her first slave in St. Croix​
1831: Established a model School for girls in Boston, Mass.​
Friend of Elizabeth Fry, Samuel Tuke and William Rathbone​
1840 – 1841: Investigated care for mentally ill in Massachusetts​
Lobbying to expand the state mental hospital in Worcester, Mass.​
1844: Visited jails and almshouses in New Jersey​
Helped to authorize an asylum​
Documented condition of mentally ill in New Hampshire & Louisiana​
1846: Traveled to Illinois to study mental illness​
1847: Helped establish first mental hospital in Illinois​
1848: Traveled to North Carolina to get reform for mentally ill​
1853: Helped with founding of Harrisburg, PA. State Hospital​
1853: Studied the mentally ill in Novia Scotia​
Traveled to Sable Island helping a shipwreck rescue​
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1854:
Helped with passage Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane​
1854: Investigated Conditions of mental hospitals in Scotland​
1857: Managed building of asylum in the Channel Islands​

Civil War Career:

1861 – 1865: Superintendent of Union Army Nurses​
She Set strict guidelines for Union Army Nurses​
She believed in equal treatment for Union and Confederate Soldiers​
1865: She resigned as Superintendent in August​

Life after War:
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Helped raise funds for national monument of deceased soldiers at Fortress Monroe​
Continued her crusade to improve care of prisoners, disabled and mentally ill.​
Evaluated war damage in South of facilities​

1881 – 1887: Lived at New Jersey State Hospital in private Suite

Died: July 17, 1887

Place of Death: Trenton, New Jersey

Age at time of Death: 85 years old

Burial Place: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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A noted social reformer, Dix became the Union's Superintendent of Female Nurses during the Civil War. The soft spoken yet autocratic crusader had spent more than 20 years working for improved treatment of mentally ill patients and for better prison conditions. A week after the attack on Fort Sumter, Dix, at age 59, volunteered her services to the Union and received the appointment in June 1861 placing her in charge of all women nurses working in army hospitals. Serving in that position without pay through the entire war, Dix quickly molded her vaguely defined duties.

She convinced skeptical military officials, unaccustomed to female nurses, that women could perform the work acceptably, and then recruited women. Battling the prevailing stereo types-and accepting many of the common prejudices herself-Dix sought to ensure that her ranks not be inundated with flighty and marriage-minded young women by only accepting applicants who were plain looking and older than 30. In addition, Dix authorized a dress code of modest black or brown skirts and forbade hoops or jewelry.

Even with these strict and arbitrary requirements, relaxed somewhat as the war persisted, a total of over 3,000 women served as Union army nurses. Called "Dragon Dix" by some, the superintendent was stern and brusque, clashing frequently with the military bureaucracy and occasionally ignoring administrative details. Yet, army nursing care was markedly improved under her leadership.

Dix looked after the welfare of both the nurses, who labored in an often brutal environment, and the soldiers to whom they ministered, obtaining medical supplies from private sources when they were not forthcoming from the government. At the war's conclusion, Dix returned to her work on behalf of the mentally ill.
 
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A. Roy

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Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Dorothea Lynde Dix
From A to Z
- Women


1848: Traveled to North Carolina to get reform for mentally ill​
1853: Helped with founding of Harrisburg PA. State Hospital​
1853: Studied the mentally ill in Novia Scotia​
Traveled to Sable Island helping a shipwreck rescue​
1854: Helped with passage Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane​
1854: Investigated Conditions of mental hospitals in Scotland​
1857: Managed building of asylum in the Channel Islands​

Civil War Career:

1861 – 1865: Superintendent of Union Army Nurses​
She Set strict guidelines for Union Army Nurses​
She believed in equal treatment for Union and Confederate Soldiers​
1865: She resigned as Superintendent in August​

Nice history of Dorothea Dix -- thanks for this. Her name is well-known here in Raleigh, NC, as the originator and namesake for Dorothea Dix Hospital, aka Dix Hill, which for many years was the state psychiatric hospital. A few years ago, the city purchased the property from the state to create a public park.

Dix Hill played a prominent role in the Civil War history of Raleigh. Fortifications ran across the hill, and there was an artillery emplacement there on the high ground. At the end of the war after the surrender of Raleigh, thousands of Union troops camped on the grounds and in the surrounding area. At one of the main entrances to Dix Hill, there's a boulder with Civil War-era inscriptions carved into it, thought to have been made by some of the Union soldiers camped there:

https://raleighswall.wordpress.com/...inscriptions-carved-on-a-boulder-at-dix-hill/

Al Roy
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Is she the one called "Dragon Dix"? And if so how did this name come about?

I had never heard her called "Dragon Dix" before, but checking around, I do see references to that nickname!

One example is at https://www.truthaboutnursing.org/press/pioneers/dix.html

"Before the civil war, army nursing duties were done by ambulatory male nurses. Dix convinced the skeptical military officials that women could also do the job perfectly well and recruited 2000 women into the army. Because of her autocratic style, Dix was nicknamed 'Dragon Dix,' and she often clashed with the military officials and ignored orders. Yet the army nursing care markedly improved under her supervision. She took good care of the nurses who toiled in the harsh environment, and even went to the extent of obtaining health care supplies from private agencies when the government was not willing to provide them."

I didn't look into this enough to check primary sources, but that could be an interesting little project.

A. Roy
 
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