One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

One dedicated woman...giving voice to the suffering of many
 
Born to an unavailable mother and an abusive father, Dorothea Dix longs simply to protect and care for her younger brothers, Charles and Joseph. But at just fourteen, she is separated from them and sent to live with relatives to be raised properly. Lonely and uncertain, Dorothea discovers that she does not ...
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One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel

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Overview

One dedicated woman...giving voice to the suffering of many
 
Born to an unavailable mother and an abusive father, Dorothea Dix longs simply to protect and care for her younger brothers, Charles and Joseph. But at just fourteen, she is separated from them and sent to live with relatives to be raised properly. Lonely and uncertain, Dorothea discovers that she does not possess the ability to accept the social expectations imposed on her gender and she desires to accomplish something more than finding a suitable mate.
 
Yearning to fulfill her God-given purpose, Dorothea finds she has a gift for teaching and writing. Her pupils become a kind of family, hearts to nurture, but long bouts of illness end her teaching and Dorothea is adrift again. It’s an unexpected visit to a prison housing the mentally ill that ignites an unending fire in Dorothea’s heart—and sets her on a journey that will take her across the nation, into the halls of the Capitol, befriending presidents and lawmakers, always fighting to relieve the suffering of what Scripture deems, the least of these.
 
In bringing nineteenth-century, historical reformer Dorothea Dix to life, author Jane Kirkpatrick combines historical accuracy with the gripping narrative of a woman who recognized suffering when others turned away, and the call she heeded to change the world.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for One Glorious Ambition

“Jane Kirkpatrick’s ability to probe the human spirit makes One Glorious Ambition a soaring novel of love, compassion, and duty. Born a nineteenth-century woman with few rights, Dorothea Dix nonetheless challenged the nation’s most powerful men to provide humane treatment for the hopeless—the retarded and insane. In Kirkpatrick’s skillful hands, One Glorious Ambition inspires like few other novels.”
—Sandra Dallas, author of True Sisters and The Quilt Walk

One Glorious Ambition is a compelling novelization of Dorothea Dix’s crusade on behalf of the mentally ill. Kirkpatrick’s painstaking documentation and customary attention to historical detail shine here, and the connections between Dix’s personal relationships and her life’s work stand out. Dix is a worthy American heroine. The interview section at the end of the book adds many fascinating nuggets to the story.”
—Susan Page Davis, award-winning author of more than forty books

“Jane Kirkpatrick has the rare ability to use what’s known about historical women as the foundation for compelling historical fiction. Here, Kirkpatrick shines her light on the remarkable life of Dorothea Dix, seamlessly blending fact and fiction to illuminate Dix’s journey from a girl struggling to save her family to a woman championing all those in need. Dorothea Dix can still inform and inspire modern readers, and One Glorious Ambition is a story to be treasured.”
—Kathleen Ernst, award-winning author of the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries

“Jane Kirkpatrick uses her considerable writing talents to bring Dorothea Dix to life in this exciting historical novel. In doing so, Kirkpatrick gives a voice and face not only to a heroic crusader but also to Americans seldom seen or heard in our society—those living with mental disorders. Her fiction reads like fact because it describes a campaign that still needs to be waged and exposes societal flaws that have yet to be addressed.”
—Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness

“Thank you, Jane, for personally introducing me to Dorothea in your book One Glorious Ambition. It is a joyful experience to come to actually know someone I knew so much about. My admiration of Dorothea Dix and her work has been deepened by your work, Jane.”
—Dean Brooks, MD, superintendent (1955–1982), Oregon State Hospital

“A must-read! I was moved to tears by the sense of history, tragedy, and hope of Dorothea’s life work accomplished on behalf of people with mental health challenges. Every human being should know Dorothea Dix’s story. Jane Kirkpatrick captures it magnificently!”
—Gina Firman Nikkel, PhD, president and CEO, Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care

“Read this book and have Dorothea Dix transform your life. Be uplifted not simply by the grand trajectory of Dix’s singular journey but by the irresistible voice that Jane Kirkpatrick compels you to hear. A deeply sensitive and intelligent young woman overcomes trenchant pain and social barriers to fight tirelessly for those who have neither a voice nor an advocate. Her impossible life is unraveled and liberated in this novel. And read with a sense of urgency, for the battles fought by Dorothea Dix more than a century ago are very much in need of being waged again.”
—Charles Kiselyak, producer and director of award-winning films including Completely Cuckoo, Fearful Symmetry, and A Constant Forge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307729439
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 200,789
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jane Kirkpatrick has authored over 20 books, including The Daughter’s Walk and Where Lilacs Still Bloom. A lively speaker, Kirkpatrick is a frequent keynote presenter for conferences, women's retreats,fund-raisers and workshops.  Jane believes that our lives are the stories that others read first and she encourages groups to discover the power of their own stories to divinely heal and transform. She lives with her husband Jerry in Central Oregon.
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Read an Excerpt

Like Orphans in the Chaos
1814

I’m going to take care of us, so please don’t cry.” Dorothea thumbed the tears from her brother’s blue-gray eyes, eyes the color of her own. “I’ll make it better.” He nodded, uncertain, she could tell.

The cold air, as stinging as finger slaps, bit at Dorothea’s face as she waved one last time at her four-year-old brother, Charles, then pushed the door closed behind her and entered the Massachusetts dawn.

After two hours of walking, hoping the rain would stop, she shivered and her teeth chattered. Maybe this wasn’t such a good plan. It was forty miles to Orange Court, their grandmother’s house. A blast of wind rattled the elm trees and jerked late-clinging weeds from their branches, a few jabbing her already numb face. The snow-speckled grass proved better for walking, so she paralleled the muddy cart trail whenever she could. Eight miles passed before she came to a small village. No one asked about a child trudging along alone. No one noticed a lonely child. Not even the smith hammering at his forge raised his eyes as she halted briefly, warming her hands, smelling the hot metal as it singed and spattered in the water. Everyone tended to their own lives, not worrying over any wayward children.

She had eight more miles to go before reaching a stage that could take her the next thirty miles or so to Boston. She knew the way. She’d taken coins from her father while he slept, just enough to get her to the city. Her ankles ached, and her feet were as stiff as hammers. Outside the village, she slipped in the mud, her thinsoled shoes caked with greasy earth. She twisted to catch her balance and couldn’t and landed hard on her bottom. The rain gained force and pelted down, turning to snow, the white flakes silent as death. Why should she get up? Would it be so bad to escape into the cold of nothingness, forget this challenge of being alive and rescuing her brother? The cold could simply rock her to sleep.

A crow caw-cawed above her. Charles loved to watch the crows. For you, Charles. I’ll keep going for you. She dragged herself onward toward the goal, praying she walked the right path.

“What do you want?” The woman’s eyes searched behind Dorothea, then back to her. “We’ve no need of rags to buy. And if we did, that would happen at the kitchen.” She began to close the heavy mahogany door. Dusk hovered at the eaves. This was the second day of Dorothea’s escape, and she had walked the last few miles in the snow beneath a pewter sky.

Dorothea thought she remembered the woman as the housekeeper, but it had been a few years since her last visit. “Please. I’d like to see Madam Dix.”

“Madam Dix has no time for urchins.”

“My name is Dorothea Dix. I’m her granddaughter.”

“What?” The woman squinted. Dorothea hoped she could see the same high forehead, the firm chin that her grandfather said she had gained from her grandmother. Perhaps her enunciation, clear and precise, would remind her of Madam Dix.

“Please. I’ve come all the way from Worcester. I’ve been here before, with my parents, Joseph and Mary Dix. I know where the library is, where the clock sits in the hall.”

The woman frowned. “Clock’s been moved.”

“My chin. It’s a Lynde chin, my grandmother’s.” She touched her dirty gloves to her face. “See?”

The woman pressed her lips together and scowled. “Go around to the kitchen. I’ll see if Madam Dix is willing to receive you.”

Dorothea pulled her cloak around her neck and walked to the side of the brick mansion, across the snow-covered lawn, past the marble statues that marked the entrance to the garden that harbored the Dix pear tree, her grandfather’s pride and joy. Before her grandfather’s death, her family had come here when they had no food or lacked money for wood or had burned their last candles.

They’d throw themselves on her grandfather’s mercy, asking for assistance, insisting that this time would surely be the last. For a few days there would be comfort and hours in the library and warm food when one was hungry. But soon they’d be on their way to whatever temporary housing arrangement her grandparents could make for her father and his family.

Her father might have been successful once. He’d trained at Harvard. But he lacked “drive,” she heard her grandmother tell her father, Dorothea’s face hot from hearing her father chastised. He’d even swapped land in Vermont for books. “Land,” her grandmother said in disgust when she heard this, “is where wealth is.” It was only because her parents had imposed themselves on friends in Worcester that she was close enough to get to her grandmother’s. Then last evening, when her parents failed to notice how the “friend” let his fat fingers linger hot on Dorothea’s shoulder while he praised her “pretty face” or spoke of how “mature and graceful” she was for one merely twelve, his eyes like a wolf’s, his smile a licked lip, she had made her decision.

The kitchen door opened and the cook, a smile on her face, introduced herself as “Mehetable Hathorne. Call me Cookie,” and motioned her inside. Dorothea saw the back of the housekeeper and she said “thank you” loud enough for the departing woman to hear. At least she was inside. Whether she would be allowed to stay, whether she could convince her grandmother to send for her brother and parents, that would be up to Dorothea’s persuasive ways. She was inside Orange Court! Half the battle won.

“Where are your parents?” Dorothea’s grandmother stood before her, black cap tied beneath her chin, her hands over a hickory stick she used as a cane. She was not much taller than Dorothea. “And Charles?”

“In Worcester. With friends. It’s…it’s not good there, Grandmamma. Not good at home either. Papa’s…consuming again, and Mother is…sleepy and when she wakes, she’s…wild-eyed and unpredictable. Or she doesn’t seem to know Charles and I are even there. I have to cook and clean the sheets and wash his clothes and—”

“Complaints are unbecoming.” The older woman’s jaw set hard like the flat irons on the shelf behind her. The scent of onions cooking at the kitchen hearth brought water to Dorothea’s mouth. Cookie bent to her work as though she were alone in the room. “’Tis not a complaint, Grandmamma, but bold truth. You always told me to tell the truth.”

Her grandmother tapped her hand on the cane. “Take off that wet cloak and cap, Dorothea.” The girl complied and pulled a knot of her thick chestnut hair behind her ear. “How did you get here, anyway?”

“I walked. And took the stage partway.”

“Indeed. Well, what would you have me do then? I’m an old woman with limited resources. I can’t take you all on.”

“Take in Charles and me, then. We could bring in wood for you…and cook.” She glanced at the cook’s back. “I’d look after Charles. He’s a bright boy, interested in many things.” A knot worked in her throat as she thought of her parents and how quickly she had stopped pleading for them. “We’d be no trouble, really, we wouldn’t. And you’d have…companionship.” Her grandmother only snorted. “If you took us all in, maybe Papa could help fix the shutters and he could look after Mama—”

“Companionship you say? What need have I with the companionship of undisciplined children?”

“There’ll be a third.” Dorothea dropped her eyes as she spoke.

“It’s imperative that you help us now.”

“Imperative!” the older woman grunted.

Dorothea wasn’t sure if it was the idea that she had spoken indirectly of a pregnancy that distressed her grandmother or if the thought of yet another mouth to worry over in her second son’s life caused the woman to now purse her lips. It was Dorothea’s strongest argument—the safe arrival of another Dix. They’d need the refuge of her grandmother’s large home in Boston if they were all going to survive, especially a baby. Couldn’t her grandmother see the logic in that?

Dorothea’s emotions swirled like leaves in a whirlpool in the continuing silence. She heard her heart beat faster at her temples. Snow outside accumulated on the sills of the wavy glass windows. “You’re our only hope.” Her voice broke. I must not cry. She stiffened her narrow shoulders. She stood as rigid as wrought iron. She knew one thing for certain: if anyone ever pleaded with her for help as she now beseeched her grandmother, she would find a way to meet the depth of the request. “We suffer,” she said.

“Everyone suffers. Some more than others. There’s nothing to be done for it. The suffering will always be with you. Scripture states it. Time you learned the lesson.”

“The child will come right after Christmas, Grandmamma. Don’t let it struggle too. And Charles. He’s only a child!”

“Then your mother will need you much more than I will, Dorothea.” The woman’s voice softened into a sigh. “You must go back, girl. I simply can’t take you all in again. I’m sorry. Your father has made his bed and he must lie in it. Which apparently he does quite often.”

With that the woman turned away, the brim of her day cap fluttering with the brusqueness of the turn. As she pushed her wide hips through the narrow door she stopped.

She’s changed her mind! Dorothea thought.

Instead, the woman leaned toward the cook and spoke quietly, then she moved into the safety of the mansion, a small dog that Dorothea hadn’t noticed before following at her heels. “It’ll take them a bit to bring the carriage around.” The cook turned to her. “You come warm yourself at this fire and have a bite to eat. I’ll fix you a basket to take with you. For your little brother and your parents.”

“Thank you, missus…” Dorothea dropped her eyes. She couldn’t remember the name of the woman, the one person who was at least going to give her stomach comfort before she was sent back into chaos.

“Cookie.” She motioned for Dorothea to sit at the table. Dorothea removed her wet wrap to hang beside the hearth.
“Your shoes too, dearie. May as well get them a little drier while you sit.”

Dorothea sank like a weary dog onto the chair, removed her soaked shoes, her ungloved fingers pulling at the wet leather laces and hooks while she watched Cookie gather a spatter of potatoes and onions from the hearth and a slice of dried beef from the larder. A butter round appeared with a loaf of bread.

“Eat now,” she said.

Lifting the bread took all the strength Dorothea had. Cookie placed a piece of ham in a basket and added a round of cheese, and the girl saw her nestle dried pears in a small stone pot, then put a few more pieces of the fruit on the table for Dorothea. “Don’t be too hard on your grandmother.” Cookie continued loading the basket with food, then tied the white cloth into a big bow of protection. “She’s a good woman. Done much for this district ever since your grandfather’s death. She’s likely carried your parents across many a swollen stream.”

Dorothea wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, breadcrumbs tumbling onto the bodice of her dress. “But we could assist her. I could.”

“She might not say it, but I suspect she’s proud you come to her for help. She just can’t give it to you the way you’re askin’. But that’s what we’re about, you know, we women. We find a way over troubled water, even if it has to be a boat bobbing in the currents rather than a bridge.”

Dorothea ate slowly, savoring the food and warmth and taking in the wisdom of this ordinary woman. It was apparently all she would get from Orange Court. Who knew what trouble she would face when she was returned to Worcester. The outrage of her father for disappearing. Would her mother have noticed? She sighed. Her journey and her words had failed.
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Interviews & Essays

What inspired you to write One Glorious Ambition?
I'd read about Dorothea Dix as a young reader when biographies of women were hard to find. She was memorable for her passion and for being someone who could make a difference in the lives of others. I retired superintendent of Oregon State Hospital urged me to write her story as a novel so others could know of this remarkable woman. I finally listened to him.

How did your own background in Mental Health work influence your writing, research?
The healing power of compassion certainly drew me to Dorothea's life and that's how I have seen my life as a mental health counselor then administrator and then as a specialist to families with children with disabilities and Native American families. I see writing as healing work so writing about a woman who sought to heal the injustices of the mentally ill was for me an act of carrying on my profession. I could draw on experiences I had as a therapist but also as someone trying to affect legislation as Dorothea worked to do. And I think I could see within her life how she was a good steward of her own childhood pain, not allowing it to hold her hostage but to transform her so she might make a difference.

During your research, did you find any similarities between your life and Dorthea's?
Oh see above! I did not have a troubled childhood as she did but I did have a lonely childhood not due to anyone's neglect but my own introverted nature. I suspect Dorothea was also introverted. She was also a writer and earned many royalties (not exactly a similarity to my life except for writing part.) She bore no children and neither have I but found her family in the families of her students and the mentally ill. She was also a seeker of knowledge and wisdom and wanting to follow God's will for her life. She took risks to do that and I would say we shared that as well. That she found her true passion when she was in her forties is also something we share in common as my first book was published the day before I turned 45. I also think she discovered that relieving the suffering of others can relieve our own. That's a belief I've come to accept.

What accomplishment(s) do you believe was Dorthea Dix's greatest in her lifetime?
She made the world, literally the world, aware of the need for seeing the mentally ill as human beings, as "the least of these" in need of our compassion and care and for advocating moral treatment, that is treating the mentally ill as human beings. Her ability to visit prisons and almshouses and find those abandoned there by family or there because there was no treatment available for them and to then pursue remedies from coal for the stoves to legislation to build hospitals is nothing less than astonishing for a woman in that era.

What do you hope readers glean from One Glorious Ambition?
That each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others; that giving to something fully in one glorious ambition brings meaning to our lives. And that we're never too old to act.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    A rather dull character and an ending that left me asking "So..."

    Not up to Ms. Kirkpatrick's usual superior story telling. The character takes on a cause in a time when women were to be seen but not heard. Ms. Kirkpatrick's use of the English language is wonderful and she is so descriptive with her words that you will feel like you are there. But in this book, "there" isn't very interesting.

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  • Posted July 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Dorothea Dix just wants a better life for her family, but the gr

    Dorothea Dix just wants a better life for her family, but the grandmother she turns to for help seems to have other plans, and soon the teenage girl finds herself “standing in the light of luxury” while feeling “she belonged in the shadows.”

    There are so many things for Dolly to learn in Jane Kirkpatrick’s One Glorious Ambition. But Dolly’s own ambitions might not quite match those of the kindly relatives training her. Feeling “like milkweed in a pure pasture,” she stands inches taller than the other girls—taller too than the suitors they’re supposed to attract. But fashion dictates her hair, her clothes and her learning—fashions that the author has beautifully researched and brings to life in her words.

    Readers who’ve never heard of Dorothea Dix will soon find themselves drawn to her, recognizing her importance in the beginning of schools for the poor, and her concern for the mentally ill—“As I am homeless, I will create homes for the insane,” Dorothea declares in one letter. Those who know the history, meanwhile, will delight in a vividly real recreation of time, character and place. And readers interested in the politics of the era will be endlessly fascinated by the author’s depiction of senators, and process.

    Chapters are short and easily read. The writing’s smooth, with convincing dialog and delightful historical detail. And the hand Dolly uses in instructing her students is matched perfectly by the author’s light touch with wise lessons learned. Boston society, politics, Southern slavery, steamers to Liverpool, and a world where women’s choices are seemingly limited to men’s protection, all come to life in this story that spans continents, revives history, and invites both question and thought.

    Disclosure: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    Dorothea's life started out kind of rough with a mom who was not

    Dorothea's life started out kind of rough with a mom who was not there an a father who was abusive. All she wanted was to take care of her brothers but instead she got sent away to live with relatives who would raise her properly. Dorothea found she did not care about courting and such but she wanted to be a teacher but yet again life throws her a curve when she becomes ill and has to quit teaching. Now after a visit to a prison that houses mentally ill people Dorothea decides it is her goal in life to make things better for them. We now begin to follow her life long journey on this quest to make things right for those less fortunate. As with other books I have read by Jane I was drawn in from page one. I had not heard about Dorothea before seeing this book. I read what this book was about and had to have it. Jane does an excellent job in making you feel for the people she writes about and you fall in love with them from the get go. I love anything to do with this time period in history so it made me like it that much better and I flew through the book. This book is so well written that you do not even realize you are reading a biography instead of a historical fiction book. I found myself wanting to go back in time and help Dorothea and just give her a big hug. I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. A big 5 stars on this one.  

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