Mentally ill were being locked up in dirty, crowded prison cells. There was only one private hospital in Massachusetts for the mentally ill, but only the rich could afford it. Dorothea Dix spent two years preparing a report about the inhumane treatment of the mentally ill. She reported they were locked in cages, closets, and pens. Most were chained, naked, and beaten. Massachusetts legislators voted to create public asylums for the mentally ill. She visited prison in other states.
Conversation with William Ellery Channing
She was a writer, teacher, and reformer. She was upset by what she saw when she went to teach a Sunday school class in jail. That started her career as a reformer. Because of her work in visiting prisons, she helped to bring about numerous new hospitals or mental health facilities for the mentally ill. She also traveled to Europe and helped to start hospitals for the mentally ill there.
Impact on Today's Society
Massachusetts legislators voted to create public asylums for the mentally ill. She visited prisons in other states. In 1852, because of her constant visits to Washington DC, Congress set up a Government Hospital for the insane, today it is called St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Because of her work in Pennsylvania, it was known to have two of the best prisons in the world.