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


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

ISBN13: 9781400074310
ISBN10: 1400074312
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Like Orphans in the Chaos


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


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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Sheila Deeth, July 19, 2013 (view all comments by Sheila Deeth)
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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lanehillhouse, March 23, 2013 (view all comments by lanehillhouse)
Saturday, March 23, 2013
One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix ~ A Novel by Jane Kirkpatrick, ©2013

It's time, it's time! A new novel by Jane Kirkpatrick! Historical Fiction is my very favorite genre. This book is about Dorothea Dix, best known for her care reform for mentally ill patients.

As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
--Matthew 25:40

I love the thoroughness of Jane Kirkpatrick's novels. I am eager to join in discovering the life of Dorothea Dix.

Dorothea Dix had a strong undertaking of freedom for others to the greatest of her ability. An advocate where others turned away.

My Review:
One Glorious Ambition begins sooner than she realizes. Dorothea Dix strives to find her place. She is compassionate and caring. She longs to shelter her brothers but finds that she must leave them with the knowledge of her love for them and her openness to receive them wherever she is. She was motivated in schooling young girls, to educate and train them in reaching their full potential in whatever chosen as their life goal. She wore herself to a frazzle with all of the classes she held and wanting the accomplishments for her students. In the late afternoons and evenings she opened her carriage house school where she taught those who could not pay for their education.

Give me to know that but one human being has been made better by my precepts, more virtuous by my example, and I shall possess a treasure that the world can never take from me.
--Dorothea Dix, One Glorious Ambition, 88

As much as she struggled, she was often misunderstood in her striving to elevate others in preference to herself. She became quite ill and came under the care of William and Elizabeth Rathbone at their Greenbank estate home. Regaining her health, she sees modeled in those around her:

The people hovering around the central fires at Greenbank were interested in the world around them and active in their pursuit of ministry without being demanding of others. They paced themselves in their work and thus had much to draw on for the care of others. They gave their time, their strengths, as well as their money. God's love, that's what should burn the fire in the hearth of a home.
--Ibid., 160

Places you have never imagined. Through turns of events, Dorothea is asked to take a Sunday school in an East Cambridge jail.

Perhaps these women didn't know their purpose, hadn't been given the news that they were loved by one greater than all others, a love that could help them make a better life when they left this place.
--Ibid., 184

Before leaving, Dorothea goes to the building across the way; the one she had been warned against.

If I am cold, they are cold; if I am weary,
they are distressed; if I am alone, they are
--Dorothea Dix

In that moment, Dorothea knew: it was beyond them to change by themselves. They could not help it, might never change at all, but each of them deserved to be treated with kindness, care, hope. She could see that now. They needed others--they needed her.
--Ibid., 191

It has always amazed me how the very small thing I was likely even unaware of, is what the Lord used in a larger way later in my life. Prepared in advance for what He had for me to do. Dorothea's life purpose is becoming very clear to her. What she avoided has now become her champion. She has discovered her place in His path before her.

Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You
--Mark Altrogge,
"One Pure and Holy Passion"

One Glorious Ambition - Jane Kirkpatrick
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781400074310
Release: April 2, 2013
Fiction - Historical
One Glorious Ambition
by Jane Kirkpatrick

JANE KIRKPATRICK has authored more than twenty books, including The Daughter's Walk and Where Lilacs Still Bloom. A lively speaker, Jane 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.
Introducing Jane Kirkpatrick, a speaking sample ~ wouldn't it be fun to sit under Jane's tutelage?
I so enjoy her blog posts. As an author, speaker, and mental health professional, she is well-versed. "To fit things into tight places." This part of the 8-minutes-only of her talk, caught my attention. This is what she has done! So many intricate, delicate words, woven into lives that thread into ours!
Thank you, Jane Kirkpatrick, for your wonderful writing style expressed through life. Strength and flexibility.

Author, Jane Kirkpatrick
Most of my novels are based on the lives of historical women and this woman, Dorothea Dix, engaged me as she was an early reformer for mental health, something I've been involved with myself for many, many years. This quote of Dorothea's is also an inspiring thought:
"In a world where there is so much to be done.
I felt strongly impressed that there must be something for me to do."
~Dorothea Dix 1802-1887.

Book Description:
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.

***Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah blogging for Books for sending me an Advance Reading Copy of Jane Kirkpatrick's novel, One Glorious Ambition, in exchange for a review in my own words. This novel is available for pre-order and will be released on April 2, 2013.***
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Product Details

The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel
Kirkpatrick, Jane
Waterbrook Press
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:

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One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix, a Novel Used Trade Paper
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Product details 400 pages Waterbrook Press - English 9781400074310 Reviews:
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , 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.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “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!”
"Review" by , “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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