Dorothea Dix was the most politically engaged woman of her generation, which was itself a remarkable tapestry of activists. An influential lobbyist as well as a paragon of the doctrine of female benevolence, she vividly illustrated the complexities of the "separate spheres" of politics and femininity. An activist who disdained the women's rights and antislavery movements, Dix, an old-line Whig, sought to promote national harmony and became the only New England social reformer to work successfully in the lower South right up to the eve of secession. When war broke out, she sought to achieve as Superintendent of Women Nurses the sort of cultural authority she had seen Florence Nightingale win in the same role during the Crimean War. The disastrous failure of one of the most widely admired heroines in the nation provides a dramatic measure of the transformations of northern values during the war.