A review of One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a NovelOne Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel by Jane Kirkpatrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Something drew me to the cover of this story and I’ll admit that I took it based solely on how the cover drew me in. It isn’t that it is a gorgeous cover but something about it is so inviting. I am so glad that I put aside my fear of non-fiction to read this book. I typically do not like a non-fiction story but this one read like fiction. Though I understand this is based on Dorothea and is not classified as "non-fiction" I found most of the information to be fairly accurate which was impressive. Set in the 1800s, this book takes us into the life of historical reformer, Dorothea Dix. Honestly, I had heard the name but I didn’t know anything about her—she was a fascinating woman that accomplished great things for those that cannot speak for themselves. If you’re a fan of historical fiction—particularly those revolving around social issues and reformations, then I strongly suggest this book. You will not be disappointed.

The story starts in the early life of Dorothea Dix. We see her early struggles in life as she cares for her young brother and her “unavailable” yet pregnant mother. It is not known what Dorothea’s mother suffered from—perhaps post-partum depression but more widely it is thought that she had some form of mental retardation that rendered her incapable of caring for her children. I suppose we’ll never know for sure but what we do know is that she was unable to care for her children and that her husband was an abusive alcoholic. Dorothea was eventually sent for by her grandmother and left her young brothers to live with her aunt and uncle, and then later on her grandmother. Unable to ever truly find the desire to find a suitor—Dorothea focused on teaching and later on she became an activist for those that had no voice. During Dorothea’s life she wanted to see hospitals constructed for the “mentally insane” rather than seeing them being sold into slavery or living in crowded jails. Many of these poor patients were abused, mistreated, starved or hungry. Moral and ethical treatments were not used. No kind touch or common decency that marks a person as being human. Where others were taking up the cause to free the slaves (another worthy cause) Dorothea was confused and frustrated that many of the abolitionist did not agree with the same freedoms for those in mental asylums or overflowing into the local jails. This caused her to become a voice for those that had no voice—and though she was a woman and women at that time really had no voice, she became a great reformer that brought about many needed changes. She never married but she did have a strong connection with President Fillmore and made many friends in congress and the senate. It was a remarkable feat for her day and we owe many advances in the humane treatment of patients to Dorothea Dix. She also happened to serve as a nurse and saved the life of Louisa May Alcott—fascinating! I wish I could sum this book up in words but I can’t. It was really a great read and it is the first non-fiction book I’ve read that I was fully immersed into the story.
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Wisconsin native, living in Oregon for past 35 years. With husband Jerry (35 years married) lived on a remote ranch in rural North Central Oregon along a wild and scenic river. She has two step-children and five grandchildren. Jane writes inspirational historical novels based on the lives of real people. She's a retired clinical social worker who was a community mental health program director and who served as a consultant to the early childhood program of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

I received One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix as a complimentary gift in exchange for an honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. My comments and opinions are my own.

One Response to “A review of One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix”

  1. I am so anxious to read this book! Dorthea Dix was truely a life saver of many - because of her thousands have had better lives. And, she is continuing to have influence through the voice of Jane Kirkpatrick. On a personal level, her work at the State Hospital in Salem,Or is in my backyard. My mother-in-law and my brother both worked there for years, also striving to make people's lives better. If anyone has the opportunity to visit the museum at the hospital's historical building, they shoud go - and see the bust made in honor of Dorthea Dix.

    Marea Stone