Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Mystery of Two Dorothy/ Dorothea Dixes, both with Mental Health History Issues

Continuing w/ the matter of the Dorothy Dix, who wrote a column in the New Orleans Times-Picayne at the turn of the last century.  She was NOT the DOROTHEA Dix who earlier worked w/ the mentally ill.  This DOROTHY Dix, a pen name she chose as directed by her editor, 'The Major', had this birth name: Elizabeth Meriweather (descended, as I said previously from Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame). 

From page 59-60: (in being directed by the editor of the paper to choose a pen name for her Sunday column, w/ she living in New Orleans, having left her mentally ill unstable husband who could not keep a job and had temper control issues):

"....Dorothy Dix....she liked the sound the sound of the words, and so did the Major (the editor), and that was it. Not until years passed did she hear about Dorothea Dix, the New Englander, who worked so devotedly to obtain fairer treatment for the mentally ill.  The newspaper woman's sly adoption of a similar name was no sly allusion, as some thought, to her husband's illness.

Well, isn't this curious? Its as if the younger Dorothy Dix was being 'directed' by the older Dorothea Dix to move in a certain direction...the claiming of her own life, snatching it away from the untoward influence of her mentally ill husband. 

And so Dorothy Dix writes:

"I stood yesterday.  I can stand today. And I will not permit myself to think about what might happen tomorrow."

And like myself, and this blog, referring to Dickens' character, Madame Defarge, the old crone purling away as the heads rolled off the guillotine of the French Revolution, "Nobody could spend a few hours with her without hearing something about a Dickens character." (p. 28)

"....By the time she was fifteen she was putting out her own private newspaper, making herself 'proprieter, editor, contributor, compositor, and sole subscriber..." (p. 31).

And as this Dorothy Dix recognized that she would never have any domestic stability due to her husband's mental instability, dragging them from city to city whereupon he lost job after job, she resigned herself to having no children---a woman who very much wanted children.  And her father, upon seeing how she was suffering, took her to the Mississippi Gold Coast for a long holiday when she was in her early 30's.  Her neighbor introduced her into the Times-Picayne as she resolved that hard work was the only antidote to her sorrow:

"The only panacea for grief is to keep so busy that you have no time to think of your sorrow, and to work so hard that you sleep at night through sheer exhaustion. I know, for I travelled the dark road for thirty-five years, and I should have gone crazy if I'd had enough time to do it."


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