Her attempts directly influenced the construction of 32 associations in America.
She was the eldest of three kids, and her dad, Joseph Dix, was a religious fanatic and provider of religious tracts who made Dorothea stitch and glue the tracts together, a chore she despised.
At age 12, Dix left home to live with her grandma in Boston, and then an aunt in Worcester, Massachusetts. She started teaching school at age 14. In 1819, she returned to Boston and founded the Dix Mansion, a school for women, and also a charity school that poor girls could attend free of charge. She started composing textbooks, with her most well-known, Dialogues on Common Things, published in 1824.
The course of Dix’s life transformed in 1841, when she started teaching Sunday school at the East Cambridge Jail, a women’s penitentiary. She found the appalling treatment of the prisoners, especially those who have mental illnesses, whose living quarters had no heat. She promptly went to court and procured an order to supply heat for the prisoners, as well as other developments. She started traveling across the state to find out more about the conditions in prisons and poorhouses, and ultimately crafted a record that has been presented to the Massachusetts legislature, which raised the budget to enlarge the State Mental Hospital at Worcester. But Dix was not content with reforms in Massachusetts.
Dix also lobbied in the national level, as well as in 1848 she requested Congress to allow more than 12 million acres of property as a public endowment to be employed for the advantage of the mentally ill along with the blind and deaf. Deterred by the reverse, Dix went to Europe. She found tremendous difference between public and private hospitals, and great differences among states. She urged reforms in several states, and, most important, met with Pope Pius IX, who personally ordered building of a brand new hospital for the mentally ill after hearing her report.