Dorothea Dix was born in 1802 in a rural section of Maine. After moving to Boston at the age of fourteen to live with her wealthy but austere grandmother, Dix became a schoolteacher and writer. In 1835, however, she suffered a physical and psychological collapse. She traveled to England, where under the care of philanthropists William and Elizabeth Rathbone, Dix regained her health. In England, she also came into contact with new ideas about social reform and government responsibility.
After returning to the United States, she initiated a public health movement to reform the treatment of the indigent mentally ill. At the time, paupers who were mentally ill were incarcerated alongside convicted criminals and often housed in unheated, unfurnished, and squalid quarters. After conducting an extensive investigation throughout Massachusetts, Dix wrote her most influential tract, Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts (1843). Dix's thirty-two page report humanized the plight of the mentally ill residing in state institutions, and Massachusetts responded with legislation.
As an antisuffragist and antiabolitionist, Dix appealed for her causes to male politicians as well
Brown, Thomas J. (1998). Dorothea Dix: New England Reformer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gollaher, David. L. (1995). Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix. New York: The Free Press.