One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel

Kirkpatrick, Jane


Barcode: 9781400074310

Release date: 04/02/2013

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One dedicated 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. Review

Q&A with Jane Kirkpatrick

Q. What inspired you to write One Glorious Ambition?

A. 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.

Q. How did your own background in Mental Health work influence your writing, research?

A. 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.

Q. During your research, did you find any similarities between your life and Dorthea's?

A. 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.

Q. What accomplishment(s) do you believe was Dorthea Dix's greatest in her lifetime?

A. 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.

Q. What do you hope readers glean from One Glorious Ambition?

A. 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.

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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