Blair Webber & Molly Pennington


- Establishment of more asylums

- Improvement of existing asylums

- Re-education of guards to humanly treat patients

- Abolishment of criminal punishment for patients: to go to safe asylums rather than prisons

Reasons for reform

- People suffering from mental disabilities and illnesses are being treated as criminals

- Incapable of understanding their mistakes; should be treated differently than someone who is in control of their mind and body

- General lack of compassion of those who can't help themselves

- Wardens and guards were not trained to handle patients humanely.

"... 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"


Dorothea Dix was the spokesperson and leader of the reforms on Asylums.

When visiting jails, Dix witnessed a woman being forcefully tied to a bed in Burlington who was only allowed to rise on occasion, typically every other day, in order to avoid trouble for the keepers of the prison. It was common for her to witness chaining and caging of those who were insane. As well, she witnessed in Bridgewater three insane people put in a room without being able to leave.

- Improved existing facilities in Rhode Island and New York as well as establishing more hospitals in many other states.

- Persuaded the Massachusetts legislature by writing a strongly worded letter concerning the mistreatment of the mentally insane in prisons.

- Creation of some new hospitals

- Reforms of existing ones

- Change in sentencing- mentally ill are no longer prosecuted as criminals

- Moderate movement: This was a situation that any human being could tell needed to be fixed; there wasn't a party or group opposed to the fair treatment of mentally ill people.


Primary Source:

Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts, Dorothea Dix. 1843

Secondary Sources:

Prentice Hall Classics  (Text book)

Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic (Text book)


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