The American Journal of Insanity–yes there was a magazine called that

I'm the one on the right.
I’m the one on the right.

Dorothea Lynde Dix (April 4, 1802 – July 17, 1887) was an American activist on behalf of the indigent insane who, through a vigorous program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress, created the first generation of American mental asylums

In Stuck Together I’ve got a crazy person. A couple of them honestly.

One is a woman who has (using my limited medical knowledge) psychotic breaks. She can mostly function normally but she’s got it in her head that Dare Riker killed her child. She never had a child. But when she has these psychotic breaks, she tries to kill Dare. She’s tried three times now.

So Lana-the-Furiously-Mad is in jail in Broken Wheel, Texas, under the care of sheriff Vince Yates. And no one quite knows what to do with her.  The rule back then was often a woman convicted of a crime was thrown into prison right along with the men. That has horrified Tina Cahill and she’s determined to stop it from happening.

She’s finding precious little support from Vince—Lana tried to murder his friend and he’s out of sympathy for her. Even less from Dare—Lana not only tried to kill him three times but she held a knife to Glynna’s throat. Glynna…his wife.  No one really wants something awful to happen to Lana (well, maybe a couple of them do!) But they sure aren’t going to let her just go free!

They gave her a stamp!
They gave her a stamp!

And that brings us to….Dorothea Dix. Crusader for the mentally ill. Okay, the insane. Not so much with the politically correct language back then but Dorothea Dix was the real deal. A crusader. She grew up in Boston with an alcoholic father and a wealthy grandmother who supported the family. As an adult woman she opened her own school for girls, daughters of wealthy Bostonians, then she started adding in poor children because she believed education would help lift them up.

Her health failed. (they don’t say in what way) and she did some writing during her years as an invalid, finally she traveled to England in hopes of medical help and there she became friends with a Quaker family who inspired her to work for better treatment for the insane. She brought that fervor back to America.

She visited the small, privately owned hospitals for the insane in New Jersey and was horrified. People in cells, chained, naked, beaten. She began to fight for some type of regulation for such places and this became known as Humane Asylums.  Through her work the first legislation requiring humane asylums was passed in New Jersey in 1845. Did the world see the light and immediately begin building humane asylums?


Dorothea had to go to New Hampshire and start all over.

Then Louisiana

Then Illinois.

Then North Carolina, then Pennsylvania.

They named hospitals after her!
They named hospitals after her!

State by state she fought her way through the legislatures, gave speeches, held small gatherings to lobby (they didn’t use that word back then) and over the course of years she made inroads into the treatment of the insane in America. She had legislation in order in Washington DC to make the new regulations for care of the insane nationwide.

It was vetoed in 1853, again in 1854 and yet again in 1855.

Dorothea, frustrated, traveled to Europe and worked on her cause there, then to Canada. When she returned to America it was to face the Civil War. She was so well known for her care of patients—though she never did care for patients—she just lobbied for them, that she was assigned as Superintendent of Army Nurses for the Union Army. A huge job as the head of all nurses during the war.

She was ill-suited for that and spent much of the war clashing with both doctors and other nurses. Instead of trying to manage people she was trying to change and reform and lobby.

It got her into all kinds of trouble.

Then after she got fired, and the war finally ended, she started up her crusade for the mentally ill again, mostly from the ground up because the asylums she’d helped establish, especially in the south were gone with the wind (you might say).

The USS Dorothea Dix-Yep, a battle ship.
The USS Dorothea Dix-Yep, a battle ship.

For her years of work she became celebrated and she mostly spurned all the honors. I suspect she was a crotchety woman, though she did get governments to make huge changed, so maybe she was more charming than she sounded.

Vince Yates discovers Dorothea Dix and her work with the insane and his interest in it goes far beyond wanting to help the mad woman Lana Bullard.

10948 StuckTogether_mck.inddYou can find out all about it reading Stuck Together, the rollicking conclusion to the Trouble in Texas Series.



Stuck Together

When a lawman who values order gets stuck with a feisty crusader who likes to stir things up, there’s going to be trouble in Texas!

Now that she’s settled in town, Tina Cahill is determined to get Broken Wheel’s saloon closed for good. To that end, she pickets outside the place every afternoon. Unfortunately, so far no one has paid any attention.

Vince Yates earned the nickname “Invincible Vince” because of his reputation for letting absolutely nothing stop him. But Vince is about to face his biggest challenge yet: his past has just caught up with him. His father, mother, and the sister he didn’t know he had show up in Broken Wheel without warning. His father is still a schemer. His mother is showing signs of dementia. And his surprise sister quickly falls for one of Vince’s best friends. Vince suddenly has a lot of people depending on him, and Tina doesn’t approve of how he’s handling any of them.

With nearly every other man in town married off, Vince finds himself stuck with strong-willed Tina over and over again. Of course, Tina is the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, so if he could just get her to give up her crazy causes, he might go ahead and propose. But he’s got one more surprise coming his way: Tina’s picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.




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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

19 thoughts on “The American Journal of Insanity–yes there was a magazine called that”

  1. Congratulations on the new release, Mary!!! It’s always exciting I don’t care how many times it happens. It sounds just like my type of story. I remember romances way back yonder (must’ve been in the 70’s & 80’s) about insane asylums. But I’ve not read one in a long while. Those places must’ve been really really bad. And the thing was that if a husband or a brother or father wanted to get rid of his female relative he just committed her to one of these places and she usually never got out. So many women weren’t really crazy at all. Very scary.

    Wishing you a tons of success!!

  2. Linda I thought of that, too. Rich men with ‘troublesome’ wives could pay to have them declared insane and locked up.

    How could would THAT story be, huh? I’m writing it right now in my head!!!!!

  3. Hi Mary, your new story sounds wonderful and so YOU!

    It’s hard to believe but we still have a long way to go in taking care of the mentally ill. Now we just let them roam the streets and shoot their way into schools. There’s got to be a better way.

    Hope you sell tons of books!

  4. While I was studying this I kept thinking about how … wasn’t it Geraldo Rivera did that big expose on insane asylums a couple of decades ago…he got really famous for it. They closed almost all of them down and they were awful, no denying it. But now we just let mentally ill people roam because families can’t control them or handle all the trouble and they end up homeless.
    Nice Work Geraldo!
    I’ve heard from a cop that though many homeless are alcoholics/drug addicts, they drink to self-medicate. They’re mentally ill and alcohol quiets the torment for them.

  5. Your friend is right, Mary. Many of the homeless are mentally and ill and there’s simply no place for them. It’s almost worse if the person is semi-functioning, because there’s even fewer resources.

    (book sounds great!)

  6. Congrats on the release, Mary and what terrific information. Good heavens, how about some compassion, grrrr. I learned researching a book that wealthy men could just toss their wives into an insane asylum if they asked for a divorce. Sheesh. Good stuff today, my friend.

  7. Karen I wonder if she’d have cared? She was so PASSIONATE about her cause she dedicated her whole life to it. Such an interesting character. And the way she fought with her superiors in the Civil War was such a glimpse into her nature.

    She was famous btw of demanding equal treatment for both Union and Confederate wounded, though she worked in the Union hospital.

    She because beloved by the south for policies she fought for demanding the get equal medical care.

  8. Tanya, isn’t that chilling, that it could happen? I suppose unscrupulous men would do whatever someone asked for money. There was a Grace Livingstone Hill book (can’t remember the title) where a woman was kidnapped and stuck in an institution like this. The hero came and rescued her pretty fast but it was a good story!

  9. What an inspiring historical hero! Thank you for sharing more about Dorthea Dix’s work. Looking forward to reading Stuck Together!!!

  10. Mary, congratulations on your new release! Sounds wonderful, just like your others, and I can’t wait to read it. Your humor always shines through and I really enjoy that.

    In Jim Fergus’s One Thousand White Women, the premise of the book is that the Indians make a bargain with the U.S. Government that they will give horses for women in order to integrate the ways of the whites into their tribes in a more “peaceful” kind of assimilation tactic. The government then goes into the insane asylums and cleans them out to send to the Indians. Of course, many of these women are NOT insane, but are the victims of husbands who want to get them out of the way, etc., and such is the plight of the heroine from whose viewpoint the story is told. It’s an AWESOME book–can’t recommend it enough.

    And God bless Dorothea Dix! It’s too bad they don’t teach about people like her in our schools–give kids someone to pattern after in some ways–people who are passionate about good causes like this. Sounds like she made a LOT of progress during her life, championing the underprivileged and mentally ill, as well as the soldiers. She probably was crusty, but I imagine she really had to be to get anything at all done in that day and time.

    Great post, Mary, and I look forward to reading Stuck Together.

  11. Stuck Together is finally released. I’ve been waiting for it.
    What we need is a Dorothea Dix today. Nothing is being done for the mentally ill. Come to think of it, nothing is being done about anything. We just talk about it.

    Great post. I learn so much from Petticoats & Pistols.

    Guess I’ll mosey on over to Amazon now.

  12. Cheryl, how cool to write a romance with a Dorothea Dix type character. Of course in Stuck Together my heroine Tina is a reformer. But she has a very small mission field.

  13. I’m looking forward to reading Stuck Together since I’ve enjoyed the other two in the series (I’ve enjoyed quite a few of your books). Jane Kirkpatrick wrote a book about Dorothea Dix (One Glorious Ambition: the Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix). I’ve read many of Jane’s books but not this one, yet.

  14. Institutions for the mentally insane were much better after the reforms Dorothea Dix lobbied for. Many left something to be desired, but they were better that what was before. Unfortunately, the “reforms” of the past 20 years or so have not improved the care and treatment of the insane/mentally ill. Institutions were shut down, and those needing care and treatment were put out, many to be homeless. Things have swung too far the other way. People who need help can’t get it. People who have relatives who need help and may be dangerous are unable to commit them for help and protection. A friend’s 14 year old granddaughter ran away, hit on her teacher and threatened to kill his family if he told anyone. The state took custody of her, but she is not getting the help she needs, just placed in foster care.

    There are group homes for those who were in institutions, giving them the structure and help they need plus making sure they get treatment. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough of them.

    Sorry I rambled, but things seem to have turned back towards where they were before. We need another Dorothea Dix to take up their cause and improve treatment and living conditions. Those who can’t take care of themselves need protection and help.

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