August 25, 2005
Bangor Ceremony Marks Newly-Named Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center
Bangor, Maine – Gov. John Baldacci will join state leaders Aug. 31 in unveiling a new name for the Bangor Mental Health Institute that honors Dorothea Dix, a Maine native who became an international pioneer in improving the lives of people with mental illness.
Legislation takes effect this week changing the hospital’s name to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center. The public is invited to ceremonies recognizing the change at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31 on the hospital’s front lawn, 656 State Street, Bangor.
Rep. Sean Faircloth of Bangor sponsored legislation changing the name and establishing the biennial Dorothea Dix Award, which will honor outstanding achievement in improving policies pertaining to people living with mental illness or mental disabilities. Co-sponsors of the legislation were Sen. Joseph Perry of Penobscot, Rep. Joseph Brannigan of Portland, Rep. Marilyn Canavan of Waterville, Rep. Michael Dunn of Bangor, and Sen. Debra Plowman of Penobscot.
Dix was born in 1802 in Hampden Maine. She began her career as a teacher in Boston. Poor health stopped her teaching work and required travel to Europe to recover. She learned about new theories of care for people with mental illness in Europe. Later, in 1841, she began her lifelong advocacy after visiting a jail in Cambridge, Mass., and witnessing the deplorable conditions for the mentally ill people living there.
Dix eventually had a hand in the founding of 32 mental institutions in the United States, including Maine hospitals in Bangor and Augusta. In addition, despite suffering from malaria, scarlet fever and other chronic health issues, she continued her advocacy for better care to Great Britain, France, Greece, Russia, Canada, and Japan.
Dix was nearly 60 when the Civil War began and President Abraham Lincoln appointed her Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army. She organized volunteers for the nursing corps, raised money for medical supplies and inspected hospitals. She continued her advocacy for people with mental illness until her death in 1887.
Gov. Baldacci will join Rep. Faircloth, legislative leaders, Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jack Nicholas, and other community and state leaders Wednesday in honoring this outstanding Maine native and pioneer. The first Dorothea Dix Award will be presented in April, 2007.