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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1838

Dorothea Lynde Dix papers


Correspondence and manuscripts of American educator, social reformer, and humanitarian, Dorothea Dix.


  • Creation: 1798-1893
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1827-1887

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


9.5 linear feet (29 boxes and 1 pf box)

The bulk of the collection is correspondence, much of it pertaining to Dix's work with the mentally ill. Includes letters from superintendents of hospitals for the insane: 134 from Dr. John Curwen at the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Asylum in Harrisburg, 129 from Dr. Charles H. Nichols at the Government Hospital for the Insane (now St. Elizabeths) in Washington, D.C., and 124 from Richard S. Fellowes in New Haven, Conn., as well as 69 letters from U.S. president Millard Fillmore, and letters of thanks from states, institutions, and relatives of the mentally ill. Also contains Dix's correspondence with friends in the U.S. and Great Britain; third party correspondence relating to Dix's career or discussing her after her death; reports and notes on hospitals and prisons; documents to establish asylums, regulate prisons, or authorize Dix to organize military hospitals; military passes; notebooks Dix kept with hymns, sermons, and passages from the Bible; one diary, 1857; poems; address books; financial and genealogical papers; wills; portraits; daguerreotypes; biographical material; puzzles; printed material; clippings; and memorabilia.

Biographical / Historical

Dix was an American educator, social reformer, and humanitarian. She investigated the conditions of the hospitalized insane in many U.S. states and some European countries, and petitioned state and national legislatures for reforms. She was also superintendent of army nurses during the Civil War.


Arranged in five series:

  1. I. Letters to Dix
  2. II. Letters from Dix
  3. III. Other letters
  4. IV. Manuscripts by Dix
  5. V. Other manuscripts

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Gift of Mrs. Horatio A. Lamb; received: 1938 July 16 and 1943 March 24.

Dix, Dorothea Lynde, 1802-1887. Dorothea Lynde Dix papers, 1798-1893: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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