Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) was an advocate for the mentally ill who revolutionarily reformed the way mentally ill patients are treated. She created the first mental hospitals across the US and Europe and changed the perception of the mentally ill. She began her social work career by opening schools and then became a successful author. When teaching prisoners she noticed the horrible living conditions and treatment they were exposed to along with the realization that the mentally ill were being housed and receiving the same inhumane treatment as violent criminals. Dix traveled across the country and compiled reports on the horrible treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill. It was these reports that she used to bring this treatment to light and allowed her to lobby for legislation and funding for mental institutions. Dix was the first woman federally appointed to a major military position when she was put in charge of Union hospitals and nursing staff during the Civil War. After the war for the rest of her life she improved existing mental health facilities and opened many new ones.

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