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One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix    by Jane Kirkpatrick order for
One Glorious Ambition
by Jane Kirkpatrick
Order:  USA  Can
WaterBrook Press, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

One Glorious Ambition by Jane Kirkpatrick relates Dorothea Dix's life-long crusade to improve the lives of those incarcerated and those who, through no fault of their own, had lost their reason. Insane, crazy, retarded whatever the problem might be called, Dorothea decried the treatment of those poor souls. She called her efforts her duty to help provide moral care for unfortunates.

She began her life's work at twelve when she ran from home to her grandmother's to beg for herself and two brothers to be taken in so they might escape the clutches of an abusive father and an unavailable mother who needed care. Refused, she returned home forlorn and lonely.

As time went on, she did live with her grandmother, but only so the woman could use her. Dorothea had always felt that she had a purpose in life she simply had to find it. When she realized she could help unfortunates, she began her crusade to stop the inhumane and cruel treatment of the afflicted. She traveled at first in New England then enlarged her scope and encompassed a large part of the United States. Considering that this was the middle of the 1800s, she must have suffered greatly in the modes of travel, including, at one point, nestled on mail bags in a train's mail car.

She met many, and cultivated, people who were of like minds. She introduced numerous bills in the Capitol to allow the government to give land for psychiatric hospitals. Her books were widely received and the royalties allowed her to continue her good works. But with all the people she met and who befriended her, she felt alone without a family of her own. One Glorious Ambition also points out how Dorothea resented the way women were brushed aside by men who felt they were incapable of handling much outside the home. One of the first feminists?

Dorothea Dix was a remarkable, unselfish woman who definitely had a mission in life and who lived her life in the service of others. Her crusade opened the way for moral treatment for those in poor mental health.

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