Dorothea Lynde Dix
Image courtesy of Rutgers University Archives
Dorothea Lynde Dix, born in Hampden, Maine, in 1802, was a contemporary of Maj. Gen. Dix. Her quiet demeanor was an
effective disguise for her iron determination to improve conditions for the insane.
She was roaring along at full power when she hit New Jersey in 1844. A tour of the state’s facilities (or lack thereof)
included cellars where men, women and children were chained to walls and each other; many jails where criminals and the
insane were housed together, and keepers who either beat or starved their charges into submission.
Dix sent her report to the State Legislature. Lawmakers so feared her threats to make public the travesty of care provided
to the insane, they came to two choices: Deport Dorothea, or adopt her suggestions. States have no power to deport people.
Thus was the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum built, in Ewing Township.
When the Civil War broke out, Dix was appointed superintendent of nurses for the Union Army. After the war, she continued
her crusade for humane treatment of the insane until her death in 1887.
(Click on the various portaits for details about famous people who bear the name Dix.)