One Glorious Ambition (2013)



Yearning to fulfill her God-given purpose, and 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.

Civil War Nurse


Dorothea Dix, a tireless crusader for the treatment of the mentally ill, was made the Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, she retired to an apartment in the first hospital that she had founded, in Trenton, New Jersey.

Crusader For Mentally Ill


Dix was able to use her vivid and upsetting descriptions to powerful effect, damning the existence of these abuses and shaming political leaders into taking action on her behalf, and on behalf of the “inmates” of these institutions.3

The model of care that Dix supported, “moral treatment,” was developed from the work of French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel and from new practices used at hospitals such as England’s York Retreat. Her tireless work and dramatic testimonials highlighted the appalling conditions in existing institutions and promoted the inherent value of compassionate care.

Read more at: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Louisa May Alcott Connection

Homestead Original Cover

Louisa May Alcott was a nurse under Dorothea Dix during the Civil War. Alcott recalled that Dix was respected but not particularly well liked by her nurses, who tended to “steer clear” of her. Alcott wrote of her experiences in “Hospital Sketches,” years before achieving fame with the classic “Little Women.”

Praise for Jane Kirkpatrick's One Glorious Ambition

"Jane Kirkpatrick also did an outstanding job of showcasing Miss Dix’s struggle to bring state and national attention to this issue, write books, and try to maintain a ladylike sense of anonymity. I finished this book with not only a new appreciation for this amazing woman but also the struggles still faced by those determined to help this often silent group." - Danya,

“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.”
—Sandra Dallas, author of True Sisters and The Quilt Walk

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.”
—Susan Page Davis, award-winning author of more than forty books

“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.”
—Kathleen Ernst, award-winning author of the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries

“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.”
—Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness

“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.”
—Dean Brooks, MD, superintendent (1955–1982), Oregon State Hospital

“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!”
—Gina Firman Nikkel, PhD, president and CEO, Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care

“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


Writer's Recollections

Before I began researching all I really knew about Dorothea Dix was her work on behalf of the mentally ill so I was surprised to learn that she was also an accomplished and successful author. I was surprised that she was able to support herself on her book royalties which is no easy thing!

Audio- (Interview) Jane talks about One Glorious Ambition. Click Here to listen. Ambition