Dorothea Dix Quotes

Advocate for the Mentally Ill

Dorothea Dix, about 1850
Dorothea Dix, about 1850. MPI/Getty Images

Dorothea Dix, an activist who served in the Civil War as Superintendent of Female Nurses, also worked for reform of treatment for the mentally ill.

Selected Dorothea Dix Quotations

• I think even lying on my bed I can still do something. [attributed, possibly incorrectly]

• The tapestry of history has no point at which you can cut it and leave the design intelligible.

• In a world where there is so much to be done, I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do.

• I come to present the strong claims of suffering humanity. I come to place before the Legislature of Massachusetts the condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. I come as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane men and women; of beings sunk to a condition from which the unconcerned world would start with real horror.

• Society, during the last hundred years, has been alternately perplexed and encouraged, respecting the two great questions --how shall the criminal and pauper be disposed of, in order to reduce crime and reform the criminal on the one hand, and, on the other, to diminish pauperism and restore the pauper to useful citizenship? [Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States]

• Moderate employment, moderate exercise, as much freedom as is consistent with the safety of the patient, and as little apparent anxious watchfulness with cheerful society should be sought.

 

•  This sentiment of satisfaction in being useful, the guardian of the insane cannot too carefully watch over and foster since it conducts to self-control and self-respect. Incurables who are able and willing to work, are much more contented and enjoy better health when employed.

•  If County Jails must be resorted to for security against the dangerous propensities of madmen, let such use of prison-rooms and dungeons be but temporary.

•  I admit that public peace and security are seriously endangered by the non-restraint of the maniacal insane. I consider it in the highest degree improper that they should be allowed to range the towns and country without care or guidance; but this does not justify the public in any State or community, under any circumstances or conditions, in committing the insane to prisons; in a majority of cases the rich may be, or are sent to Hospitals; the poor under the pressure of this calamity, have the same just claim upon the public treasury, as the rich have upon the private purse of their family as they have the need, so have they the right to share the benefits of Hospital treatment. 

• A man usually values that most for which he has labored; he uses that most frugally which he has toiled hour by hour and day by day to acquire.

• While we diminish the stimulant of fear, we must increase to prisoners the incitements of hope: in proportion as we extinguish the terrors of the law, we should awaken and strengthen the control of the conscience. [emphasis in original]

• Man is not made better by being degraded; he is seldom restrained from crime by harsh measures, except the principle of fear predominates in his character; and then he is never made radically better for its influence.

Related Resources for Dorothea Dix

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Dorothea Dix Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/dorothea_dix.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)