Dix, Dorothea L. (ON HOLD)


ALS by the social reformer, Superintendent of US Army female nurses in the Civil War


Autograph ID: 6709
Condition: Good, some see-thru, seal tear repaired with clear tape on 3rd page
Description: “(1802-1887) Maine-born activist for the poor mentally ill who, through vigorous lobbying of state legislatures, created the 1st US mental asylums. She served as Superintendent of Army Nurses in the Civil War. In the 1820s she began teaching poor and neglected children but suffered poor health. She wrote devotional books and children’s stories 1824-30, inc. one of the 1st 2 dictionaries of flowers publ. in the US. She established a model school for girls in Boston 1831-36. She went to Europe for her health and met others who inspired her to start working on equal rights for the mentally ill, inc. English men and women who believed government should play a direct, active role in social welfare and was introduced to the reform movement for care of the mentally ill there. Reform movements for treatment of the mentally ill were then related to abolitionism, temperance, and voter reforms. In 1840-41 Dix conducted a statewide investigation of care for the mentally ill poor in Massachusetts, publishing the results in a fiery report to the legislature which led to a bill to expand the state’s mental hospital in Worcester. From 1844-55, Dix’s investigation and lobbying led to creation of state facilities for the mentally ill in New Jersey, Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The culmination of her work was the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane to set aside Federal land for the benefit of the mentally, proceeds from its sale to be distributed to the states to build and maintain asylums. Dix’s land bill passed Congress but was vetoed by President Pierce in 1854, arguing that social welfare was the responsibility of the states. Dix traveled to England and Europe 1854-55. Her investigations of Scotland’s madhouses led to formation of the Scottish Lunacy Commission to oversee reforms. During the Civil War, she was appointed Superintendent of Army Nurses. Dix set guidelines for nurse candidates: volunteers were to be 35-50, plain-looking, required to wear un-hooped black or brown dresses, with no jewelry or cosmetics. Dix feuded with Army doctors over control of medical facilities and hiring and firing of nurses. The War Department introduced Order No.351 in Oct. 1863 giving the Surgeon General and the Supt. of Army Nurses the power to appoint female nurses, but gave doctors power to assign employees and volunteers to hospitals, relieving Dix of direct operational responsibility. As Superintendent, Dix implemented the Federal army nursing program, in which 3,000+ women would serve. She resigned in August 1865. But her even-handed caring for US and CSA wounded alike assured her memory in the South. When CSA forces retreated from Gettysburg, 5,000 wounded soldiers were treated by Dix’s nurses. Dix would found 32 hospitals, and influenced creation of 2 others in Japan. At the end of the war, Dix resumed her crusade to improve the care of prisoners, the disabled, and the mentally ill. A 1983 1c US stamp honors Dix.

ALS “D. L. Dix”, 2pps (1st & 2nd pps of folded 6 3/4 x 8 1/4 sheet, Boston, October 7 (no year), addressed on 4th page to P. Merriam, New York, with New York City October 11 postmark. Dix thanks him for favors, is gratified with progress on “The Boats”, etc. Her handwriting is a challenge!”
Type: Letter

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