The History of the Northampton State Hospital 1858-1993

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The Northampton State Hospital, where I had the opportunity of working as a psychiatric physician for two years beginning in September of 1969, was first known as the Northampton Lunatic Asylum. It opened in 1858 following the efforts of Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802—1887). She had been appalled when she visited a Massachusetts House of Correction in 1841 and began to denounce the wretched conditions under which the mentally ill were being incarcerated. She went on to launch her reform movement for more humane treatment of the mentally ill throughout the United States. She succeeded in the 1850s to get states to build hospitals “to get lunatics out of jails, poor houses and attics.” Dix’s efforts led to the opening of the Northampton Lunatic Asylum in 1858.

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