While there, at the age of only 14, she organized her own school and taught neighborhood children. At the age of 19, she moved back to her Grandmothers home in Boston and started a second formal school for older children she named "The Hope," which catered primarily to poor children of the area. As a creative and caring thinker, she wrote a book for children entitled Conversations on Common Things (Brown, 1998). The school was forced to close when Dorothy became seriously ill and during her convalescence over the next two years, she continued with her writing including Hymns for Children and American Moral Tales for Young Persons (Gollaher, 1995).
In 1830, Dorothea was engaged by Reverend William Ellery Channing and his wife to be a tutor and governess for their children. She traveled with the family to the Virgin Islands and stayed for nearly a year. Upon returning to Boston, she opened another school in the same location as "The Hope" school. However, within a few years, she became seriously ill with tuberculosis and was forced to retire from teaching in order to rest and recover. She spent the next 18 months recovering from her illness in England with close friends of Reverend Channing, William and Elizabeth Rathbone III. As she recovered from her illness and began to feel well enough to travel, she took advantage of an opportunity to tour York Retreat, a well known insane asylum in England. It was here that she observed patients being treated with dignity and respect, and it is thought that she formed many of her beliefs associated with compassionate care and proper treatment for the mentally ill (Herstek, 2001).
In 1837, both her mother and grandmother passed away. Her grandmother left a fairly substantial inheritance to her and her brothers, which was instrumental in supporting her life's work. In 1841, she was invited by a friend to teach inmates Sunday school at the East Cambridge institution. It was there that she observed inmates that were mentally ill and housed in the general population with criminal inmates without regard to age, sex, or their ability to cope in any social environment. She was appalled that men and women were housed together in squalor with little food, heat or sanitary options (Brown, 1998). It was at this point that she embraced the concept of the pressing need for society to provide assistance to the mentally disadvantaged, and embraced the role of crusader for the mentally ill. For the next two years, she visited nearly all the institutions in the State of Massachusetts and documented the treatment of inmates and their living conditions. One example of the horrible conditions was when she found that it was a common belief by prison and institution management that mentally ill patents couldn't feel extreme hot or cold temperatures, so there was no need to make provisions to protect them from extreme temperatures. She found this incomprehensible, and began documenting finding and thoughts she compiled