Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Helen Hunt Jackson 1831 ~ 1885

 


Helen Hunt Jackson

She was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, October 18, 1831. Her father, Nathan W. Fiske, was a professor of languages and philosophy in the college of that town. When twelve years of age both her father and mother died, leaving her to the care of her grandfather. She entered the school of Rev. J. S. C. Abbott of New York.

At twenty-one she married a young army officer. Captain, afterward Major, Edward B. Hunt. They lived much of their time at West Point and Newport. Major Hunt was killed in Brooklyn, October 2, 1863, while experimenting with a submarine gun of his own invention. After a year abroad and a long illness in Rome, she returned to this country in 187.

In her first small book of verses she was obliged to pay for the plates when they appeared, and it was only after years of hard work that she succeeded in her literary career. Her health becoming somewhat impaired, she moved to Colorado, and here in 1876 she married Mr. William Sharpless Jackson, a banker and cultured gentleman. They made their home at Colorado Springs, and it became one of the attractions of the place, her great love for flowers beautifying her surroundings.

Here she wrote her first novels, "Mercy Philbrick's Choice" and "Hetty's Strange History," also, later "Ramona," but her strongest work was brought about through her intense interest and indignation over the wrongs of the Indians inflicted upon them by the white race. She advocated education and Christianization of the race rather than their extermination. Leaving home, she spent three months in New York in the Astor Library gathering facts and material for her "Century of Dishonor." When published she sent a copy to each member of Congress at her own expense to awaken interest in her favorite theme, and this resulted in her being appointed special commissioner with Abbott Kinney, her friend, to examine and report on the condition of the Indians in California. She went into the work with enthusiasm and energy and the report was most exhaustive and convincing.

In the winter of 1883, she began to write her famous novel, "Ramona," and we quote her own language when she says of it "I put my heart and soul into it." The book enjoyed wonderful popularity not only in this country but in England. In June, 1884, a fall caused a long severe and painful illness. She was taken to Los Angeles, for the winter, but a slow malarial fever followed and she was removed to San Francisco and on the evening of August 12, 1885, she died.

Her two works "Ramona," and "Century of Dishonor" will ever preserve her name among the famous literary women of America. "The Century of Dishonor," has placed her name among the up-builders of our nation. She was buried near the summit of Cheyenne Mountain, four miles from Colorado Springs, a spot of her own choosing and which is today one of the shrines of America.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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