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

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9781400074310: One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel

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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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.

About 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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