It must have been cold that November day in 1843 when Dorothea Lynde Dix, a confirmed spinster at the age of 41, boarded the Albany to Montreal stagecoach. The stage would take the 220 mile winter route through Rensselaer and Saratoga counties before continuing on into the mountainous Adirondack counties of Warren, Essex, and Hamilton. Having grown up in abject poverty in an icebound cabin in the wilds of Maine, Dorothea was well acquainted with the bitter cold of a Northeast winter but now, no hardship, not even the frigid North Country weather, would stop her. She was on a mission.
Ever since she had discovered mentally ill people chained to the walls in the basement of the East Cambridge, Massachusetts jail three years earlier, Dorothea had considered it her calling to bring the plight of the lunatic as they were called, to the attention of the public. She spent the next two years visiting jails, almshouses, and even private homes, going where ever she was told there were people who suffered in their mind, the ones who heard voices, the ones they called mad.