Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Smark, CJ, Dorothea Dix: A Social Researcher and Reformer, Women in Research Conference, Central Queensland University, Gladstone, 24-25 November, 2005.


Abstract Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802 – 1887) was a passionate and pioneering nineteenth century mental health reformer. Bound by the conventions and proprieties of her time, she was nevertheless a ground breaking advocate of people with mental illness. Her methods of research, lobbying and advocacy were both innovative and effective. This paper traces Dorothea Lynde Dix’s researches in Massachusetts from 1841 until 1848. Her methods of research and lobbying are illustrated in the context of social and legal conventions that did not allow women to directly address the state legislatures of the time. The detractors of “Dragon Dix” are examined. Her successes are also celebrated in this paper.