In the early 19th century, Massachusetts was in the
vanguard of states to take on an active role in the care
of the mentally ill. Spurred by such advocates as
Dorothea Dix, who revealed the frequent mistreatment
of the mentally ill in private homes and in poorhouses
and jails, Massachusetts built its first state hospital in
the 1830's. Overcrowding at Worcester led to the
construction of hospitals in Taunton and Northampton
in the 1850's.
The Northampton Lunatic Hospital opened in 1858.
It was built in an optimistic spirit of humanitarian
reform which held that mental illness could be cured if
the afflicted were provided with the proper environment
and healthy influences. The patients were to receive
humane and dignified treatment under the watchful eye
and direct care of the superintendent, the doctor who
attended to every medical and administrative detail of
the hospital. Combined with regular physical and
intellectual activity and a tightly regulated schedule, this
system of "moral treatment" would lead the ill...