Dorothea Dix had a difficult childhood. She was poor, hungry and at a young age in charge of the care of her younger brother, Charles. Her mother was not lucid much of the time and spent her time lying in bed. Her father drank away any money they might have and beat his children with a switch when they didn't work hard enough. She was unloved and very lonely, which shaped her life. Dorothea walked 40 miles at the age of 12 to beg her grandmother to let Dorothea and Charles live with her. Her grandmother turned her away. After a few years, however, Dorothea's grandmother sent a wagon to bring Dorothea only to live with her.
During her time with her grandmother, who wanted Dorothea to marry in order to provide for her future, Dorothea had other plans. She struggled to fit in, to be female and not lose that identity in a male dominated society. She spoke her mind too much instead of being quiet. She felt God had called her to be a teacher. She soon taught morning, afternoons and evenings. She opened a school for indigent children to learn so they might have better opportunities in life. After a long illness during a journey to England, Dorothea began to think maybe teaching was not to be her glorious ambition to serve God. She had thought her teaching a way to instill godly morals and values for spiritual well-being as well as teach skills to better earthly lives. She develops a close friendship with another single lady and soon considers her the sister she never had. However, when tragedy strikes her friend, their relationship dissolves, leaving Dorothea feeling even more alone and bereft than she thought possible. She also tries to adopt her cousin's young daughter, but again is rejected. Her heart broken, Dorothea throws herself into her work and publishes her writings. Even amidst this rejection, she doesn't turn from God or searching for the one ultimate way she is meant to serve Him. She stumbles upon her purpose when asked to teach a Sunday School class at the jail for incarcerated women. Next door is where the mentally disabled people were housed. After touring the house, Dorothea is appalled at the living conditions and petitions the local authority to have this corrected immediately. Thus begins her tireless campaign for the rights of the mentally ill, their living conditions as well as their treatment.
This is a very interesting and informative fictional account of the life of a real historical person. Such passion and devotion to a cause and to her faith are truly inspiring. Dorothea's call to aid "even the least of these" guided her adult life, making her famous, but also opening doors to meet those in a position to help her crusade. This one woman through her generosity and tireless work made a huge difference in the lives of so many. This just shows what God can do through one person who is willing to answer when He calls.
This is a excellent book and I enjoyed it very much. Dorothea Dix was a woman full of compassion and saw it as her God-given mission to help those struggling with mental illness. If you are from North Carolina, you might think this book is specifically about the birth of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh. It is not. It tells of Dorothea's steadfast drive and passion to help as many as possible dealing with mental health illness across the country in the late mid to late 1800's - a time certainly when most were just called lunatics. She was instrumental in legislation and construction of facilities to house the mentally ill. Dorothea Dix was a crusader in this area of health care.
This is the first book that I've read written by Jane Kirkpatrick. Mrs. Kirkpatrick is also a former mental health counselor and administrator for those struggling with mental health illness. I believe this is also why the book was so good because she is writing about something that she has exposure to and is compassionate about herself. A good write and a very good read and I found myself "googling" Dorothea Dix and reading more about her - a wonderful Christian woman and a great advocate for those struggling with mental illness! (rev. P.Howard)
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.
Although I'm not done with this book, I'm thrilled with Jane's writing and can't seem to get enough. I've already recommended this book to another Jane Kirkpatrick fan. Jane does her background work extremely well and I trust her interpretations. Dorothea Dix was an amazing woman and she did a great work in the name of God. Everyone, it seems, can relate to the subject of insanity. We might all know someone who suffers in some degree and it is wonderful to know that someone gave their life to helping "the least of these".
What does an epileptic, an insane person, someone with downs syndrome, a debtor, an alcoholic, a passionate woman, and a murderer have in common? Give up? Well, in the 1800s they would have all been put in the same jail cell. I have no clue who thought that would be a good idea and why some of the above mentioned were even jailed at all is ridiculous! Dorthea Dix is the daughter of a mentally ill mother and alcoholic and child abusive father. (Neither parent was jailed.) Dix spent her life trying to fit in and find a family; the family she had was incapable of loving her at all. When she reached 40 yrs old she discovered that her life's work would be relieving the suffering of those "relieved of their reason." She spent the rest of her life doing so.
The book starts off told in fiction form following Dorthea from childhood to her twenties. It takes a more historical telling form when she starts her cause of humane treatment of those with mental disabilities of many sorts. This book tells of amazingly horrible acts of abuse to people of mental ailments. Including the ability to buy such a person to use for labor or entertainment purposes. Though it could read dry at times, the information is astounding. Dix is also made known to the reader clearly and I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for her. She always tried to fit in and yet was always afraid that she might become mentally ill. I give this book a B+. Really good. I received this book for free from www.bloggingforbooks.com.
This is the story of Dorthea Dix. She is the eldest child of a mother with mental illness who neglected her and a religious fanatic father who physically abused both her and her younger brothers. Dorthea at a young age is rescued from her extremely poor family to be raised to be a lady of means by her paternal grandmother. Dorthea is educated and well fed and becomes a teacher for young people who could not afford the tuition that was then required for educating the youth of the beginning of the 1800's. Dorthea after searching for her calling in life finally finds that she has a gift for writing and then upon her lifelong journey of finding help for the mentally ill of the world. At the time these people were either housed in people's homes or in prisons. Some states even auctioned them off to be servants or slaves. Dorthea's great ambition was to see these "least of these" housed in hospitals where they could be properly fed and treated by doctors. She championed moral care for these people. Dorthea who was born a poor girl who was not even well fed grew into a woman who would tour the country and then eventually speak before Congress to try to get this country to take good care of our mentally ill and to encourage treatment of this illness at a time when they were routinely chained and hidden from society.
When I first heard of this book, I knew that I had heard of Dorthea Dix but couldn't remember why. This is a woman who usually gets a paragraph or even just a sentence in our history books, even in nursing. This woman who lived at a time when women were not allowed to vote or even speak before groups of men did all this work for people who did not have the means or the know how to even know who she was. The mentally ill of the early 1800s were not fed regularly let alone educated or treated by physicians who specialized in their care. The horror stories of this time must be know by those now who think that treatment of the mentally ill is not worth the tax dollars spent on it. This is a book that should be read by all those concerned with the treatment or who know a mentally ill personâ€”and that is most all of us.
This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah Press for this review.