Dorothea Dix is best known as an activist who campaigned for the establishment of mental asylums in the United States. Dix lobbied state legislators and Congress, and she also published a report titled "Memorial" that detailed the conditions of the many informal mental health facilities in her home state of Massachusetts. In her report, Dix noted how some people were kept in confined areas and abused.
Dix's report was presented to the New Jersey legislature in 1845. After a proposed bill to create a state-funded asylum was delayed for several months, the bill was passed later that year. Dix then traveled to New Hampshire and Louisiana to again document the treatment of the mentally ill. She helped draft bills for the funding of mental hospitals in those states before traveling to Illinois. In 1847, she helped establish Illinois' first mental health hospital.
Dix then turned her attention to North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and she was successful in establishing mental hospitals in those states. In 1854, Dix wrote the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane, which would have made the government responsible for the funding of mental hospitals. However, the bill was vetoed by President Franklin Pierce.
In later years, Dix served as superintendent of army nurses during the Civil War, and she campaigned for improvements to the mental health systems in Scotland and Nova Scotia.