Thursday, December 10, 2015
One Glorious Ambition
The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix
By Jane Kirkpatrick
(Review by Shirley Raye Redmond)
Jane Kirkpatrick’s historical novel is a story that has lingered in my mind long after I read the last page and closed the cover of the book. Miss Dix was a stalwart advocate for mentally ill individuals mistreated by society in the 19th century. Some were locked away in cellars and attics. Others were put on display in county jails. No medical aid or social services were available at the time for those declared insane. Everyone was lumped into the same category too—whether one was a cruel psychopathic killer or a young mother suffering from postpartum depression.
Author Jane Kirkpatrick masterfully brings Dorothea to life in the pages of her novel. I felt like I knew this compassionate woman personally. By the time I got to the section of story where Dorothea visits a Cambridge jail and looks upon the pitiful, half-naked women incarcerated there because they are “lunatics,” I was so engrossed in the tale that I was whole-heartedly rooting for the heroine’s efforts. I could hear the rustle of her long black skirts as she moved from one cell to the next. I could feel the bitter winter chill in the unheated prison. I was moved to tears many times.
Before writing my romantic suspense novel VIPER’S NEST, I had a private tour of the Jacksonville Insane Asylum, built in the 1840s following Dorothea Dix’s impassioned plea to the Illinois Legislature to provide humane treatment for the insane and retarded in that state. Dorothea Dix is a worthy American heroine, and the author uses her considerable writing skills to bring to life this woman who can still inspire us today. Read this book!
Shirley Raye Redmond