Civil War Medical Figure. She was born in Hampden, Maine, and left an unhappy home at age 10 to live with a grandmother in Boston, taught school, wrote several now-forgotten books, and by the war had become prominent for her pioneering work in providing humane care for the mentally ill. 5 days after Fort Sumter was surrendered, she volunteered her services to the government and on June 10, 1861, she received her appointment from the secretary of war. She was given total authority over the selection and management of all women nurses employed by the armies, under the control and direction of the medical officers in charge at each hospital. Slight and generally soft-spoken, trying to organize a staff of nurses, with no precedents to follow, she developed an efficient operation despite the resentment and petty jealousy shown to her by many of the army doctors. Some of the male opposition to her very opinionated views was because of her sex, but some of the opposition she invited with her high-handed, arbitrary methods. The rigid standards and strict rules for applicants provoked bitter criticism among the would-be nurses she turned away because they were too young or because she looked for those plain to almost homeliness in dress and looks. She was labeled as "Dragon Dix," but the many who overcame their fear of her occasional roughness learned to understand and appreciate her insistence on practical considerations. In addition to personnel, large quantities of hospital supplies were allocated through her Washington office. When the government did not provide the stores she wanted, she procured them as donations from private citizens. She tirelessly conducted tours of hospitals, interceded for her nurses when they needed help with uncooperative doctors, and operated a house where the women could rest during their infrequent leaves from duty. She held her position without pay for the 4 years of war. Afterward she resumed her crusade to improve care for the insane. She never married, and died in the living quarters set aside for her at the hospital she founded in Trenton, New Jersey.
Bio by: Ugaalltheway
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