One Glorious Ambition by Jane Kirkpatrick.
This is the story of Dorthea Dix. She is the eldest child of a mother with mental illness who neglected her and a religious fanatic father who physically abused both her and her younger brothers. Dorthea at a young age is rescued from her extremely poor family to be raised to be a lady of means by her paternal grandmother. Dorthea is educated and well fed and becomes a teacher for young people who could not afford the tuition that was then required for educating the youth of the beginning of the 1800’s. Dorthea after searching for her calling in life finally finds that she has a gift for writing and then upon her lifelong journey of finding help for the mentally ill of the world. At the time these people were either housed in people’s homes or in prisons. Some states even auctioned them off to be servants or slaves. Dorthea’s great ambition was to see these “least of these” housed in hospitals where they could be properly fed and treated by doctors. She championed moral care for these people. Dorthea who was born a poor girl who was not even well fed grew into a woman who would tour the country and then eventually speak before Congress to try to get this country to take good care of our mentally ill and to encourage treatment of this illness at a time when they were routinely chained and hidden from society.
When I first heard of this book, I knew that I had heard of Dorthea Dix but couldn’t remember why. This is a woman who usually gets a paragraph or even just a sentence in our history books, even in nursing. This woman who lived at a time when women were not allowed to vote or even speak before groups of men did all this work for people who did not have the means or the know how to even know who she was. The mentally ill of the early 1800s were not fed regularly let alone educated or treated by physicians who specialized in their care. The horror stories of this time must be know by those now who think that treatment of the mentally ill is not worth the tax dollars spent on it. This is a book that should be read by all those concerned with the treatment or who know a mentally ill person—and that is most all of us.
This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah Press for this review.