Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn President Bill Clendaniel Retires | Page 11

Dorothea Dix: A Life of Service By Bree Harvey, Director of Education & Visitor Services When thinking about notable figures buried at Mount Auburn who focused their lives on service to others, reformer Dorothea Dix (Lot # 4731 Asciepids Path and Spruce Avenue) comes readily to mind. Born in Maine, she moved to Massachusetts at age twelve, living with her grandmother in Boston and then an aunt in Worcester. In 1819, Dix opened a successful school for young girls in Boston. In 1824, after chronic fatigue and a case of tuberculosis forced her to stop teaching, Dix became a governess for the family of her friend, Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing (Lot 678 Greenbrier Path). Dur- ing her years with the Channing family, she wrote several children’s books, including a science textbook for school children. She returned to teaching and opened another school in Boston in 1831. In 1836 Dix traveled to England to recuperate follow- ing a collapse. While residing in Liverpool she learned of new reform movements for the treatment of the mentally ill. Returning to Boston two years later, she accepted a position teaching Sunday school at the East Cambridge House of Correction. At that time the mentally ill were often housed in prisons rather than in hospitals, so Dix saw fi rst-hand the deplorable conditions affecting prisoners and the mentally ill alike. Aghast, she devoted the rest of her life to improving correctional facilities and creating separate hospitals for the insane. After an eighteen-month survey of jails, almshouses and hospitals throughout Massachusetts, Dix presented her fi ndings to the Massachusetts Legislature. Following her 1843 “Memorial,” which reported conditions for treatment of the mentally ill, the Worcester Asylum was enlarged. Encouraged, Dix expanded her crusade to the rest of New England and then the entire country. She eventually inspired legislators in 15 states and Canada to establish a total of 102 state- run and private institutions. Dix later took her crusade abroad, convincing Queen Victoria to investigate the treat- ment of the insane in the United Kingdom and Pope Pius IX to do the same in the areas surrounding the Vatican. She also visited France, Turkey, Russia and Greece to lobby for mental health care reforms in those countries. In 1845 Dix took a break from her work on mental health care reform to work with Charles Sumner (Lot 2447 Arethusa Path) on an appeal for prison reform. The two advocated for a prison system that separated different levels of offenders from one another. During the Civil War Dix volunteered her services as superintendant of nurses for the Union army. Following the war, she turned her attentions to improving care for the mentally ill and continued her work until her retirement in 1881. Dorothea Dix spent her fi nal years in Trenton, NJ, in a state hospital that she had helped to found earlier in her life. She died there in 1887 at age 68. In keeping with her wishes, the executors of her estate had her buried at Mount Auburn, not far from the lot of William Ellery Channing. Celebrating Longfellow’s Sonnets Morning snow and seasonably crisp temperatures did not deter the always ample throng which convened on February 23 in Story Chapel for the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Birthday Celebration, held in conjunction with the Longfellow House National Historic Site. This year’s program focused on the poet’s timeless sonnets. Reading and discussing them were: Charles Calhoun, author of Longfellow Rediscovered, a recent biography of the poet; Bree Harvey, Mount Auburn’s Director of Educa- tion & Visitor Services; Adu Laitan Matory, a student from the Kennedy- Longfellow School and winner of the Cambridge 2007 School Poetry Slam; J. Lorand Matory, professor of Anthropology and of African and African-American Studies at Harvard, Atu’s father; Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club, a New York Times best-selling historical mystery novel set in Cambridge and Boston during the 19th century, and Nancy Jones, Visitors Services Coordinator and Museum Educator at the Longfel- low National Historic Site. After coffee, tea and birthday cake, the group walked to Longfellow’s grave to pay their respects and lay a wreath. Left: Mount Auburn’s Bree Harvey introduces speakers Above: Longfellow National Historic Site rangers at the poet’s grave on Indian Ridge Path Summer 2008 | 9