Philadelphia: Isaac Ashmead, 1845. First edition, second printing. Preceded by a Harrisburg printing earlier that year. Wrappers somewhat chipped and soiled. Contemporary ink signature (“State Library”) to top margin of front cover. Remarkably clean and fresh inside aside from some light foxing to first few leaves. A very good, internally bright copy of a fragile, scarce item. Original printed brown paper wrappers, disbound. Octavo. 52 pp. Item #17021
After surveying the conditions in dozens of poorhouses and prisons across Pennsylvania, Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802 – 1887) presented this memorial to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. She writes, “I come to represent to you the condition of a numerous and unhappy class of sufferers, who fill the cells and dungeons of the poorhouses and the prisons of the state. I refer to the pauper and indigent insane, epileptics, and idiots of Pennsylvania. I come to urge their claims upon the commonwealth for protection and support, such protection and support as is only to be found in a well-conducted Lunatic Asylum.”.
Dix was a pioneering activist who championed mental health care in the United States at a time when such services were practically nonexistent. As part of her research into the cause, she toured asylums and hospitals across both Europe and the United States and campaigned socially and politically for improved conditions in those facilities. During the Civil War, Dix turned her attention to organizing and training nurses for the Union Army. Dix eventually appointed about fifteen percent of all Union Army nurses (National Women’s History Museum website). See Hunter & Macalpine, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, p. 911; Deutsch, Mentally Ill in America, second ed., pp. 158-85.