History's Women: The Arts: Helen Hunt Jackson, Champion of the American IndianHelen Hunt Jackson
Champion of the American Indian
1831 – 1885 A.D.

The champion of the Indian, as was Ms. Stowe of the negro, her books A Century of Dishonor and Ramona should rank with Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In her earlier years Mrs. Jackson wrote poetry, which was the overflow of deep sympathetic thought on the problem of life’s trials and temptations. Her verses were strong and noble; she was too much in earnest to give attention to mere prettiness of versification.

She next wrote Bits of Travel, which reveals another side of her nature. With genial humor and subdued pathos she paints human nature. There is nothing sour or cynical in her sketches. The tone is both helpful and healthful.

As a keen and sympathetic observer here attention was attracted by the treatment our American Indians received by the hands of government agents. But her nature was well balanced. She first made painstakingly study of the situation. She kept feeling abeyance and searched for facts. When at last she was fully equipped for her work she took up the pen in defense of the wronged Indian. She was in poor health. A fatal disease had fastened itself upon her. The consciousness of this led her to write with almost desperate haste. A Century of Dishonor appeared. Most eloquently and passionately did she plead for a change from the base, selfish policy, to a treatment characterized by humanity and justice.

Her next step (and she felt that time was short) was to cast her materials in the form of fiction to reach a wider circle of readers. She wrote Ramona, which was her expiring and supreme effort. It was in every way a noble book and will give the author lasting fame.

Ramona appeared first as a serial in the Christian Union, because, as one writer says, “She wrote at white heat and could not wait for the longer delays of a monthly magazine.”

Mrs. Jackson, whose maiden name was Fiske, was born in Amherst, Mass., October 18, 1831, and married Captain Hunt in 1852. She became a contributor to magazines and periodicals, writing under the signature of “H.H.” Her death occurred in San Francisco, August 12, 1885, while she was examining into the condition of the California Indians as a special government commissioner.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.

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