H.H. Cool J
August 25, 2008 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Helen (Hunt) Jackson was an author and an activist. Her mom died when Helen was 14, her dad 3 years later. Helen's first child died at 11 months, her second at 10 years old. In 1879 she was inspired after hearing Chief Standing Bear describe how the U.S. government took Native Americans' land. She began to publish in support of Native American rights. 1881 brought her book A Century of Dishonor [pdf], branded with the words "Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations". In 1883, she published her most famous work, Ramona, a novel about racial discrimination set in California. If that's too much to take in, and now you need some kitties, she's still got you covered. Letters from a Cat (1879) is being featured at Archive.org today.

Her husband, Edward Bissell Hunt, died in 1863. He held various positions in the United States army, producing a pamphlet urging the "energetic deportation" of Black people so that land could be "reclaimed for the sole use of the white man".

Parenthesis around "Hunt" in Helen's name because apparently she went either by Helen Hunt or by Helen Jackson.
posted by cashman (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
One of the fascinating things about Ramona is that it is a strangely persistent story; hailed as 'one of the world's most unforgettable books' as late as the 1930s, performed annually in Southern California as a play, made into loosely-adapted telenovela around 2001 or so, and, despite the three copies of the sheet music for the advertising song I found in the archives in a New England historical society...I haven't found a single person who has read it.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:05 PM on August 25, 2008

re: the "Archive.org" link, here is a better search. Internet Archive has a fantastically powerful search capability, but it's not easy.
mediatype:(texts) -contributor:gutenberg AND (subject:"Jackson, Helen Hunt, 1830-1885" OR creator:"Jackson, Helen Hunt, 1830-1885" OR creator:Helen Hunt Jackson)
This could probably be refined even further, but it should get most of them with the least number of false hits (only four in the case, at the very end of the list).
posted by stbalbach at 5:08 PM on August 25, 2008

From Letters from a Cat: I do not feel wholly sure that my Pussy wrote these letters herself [...] I never caught Pussy writing at any time when I was at home.


Beautiful interface, though.
posted by lipsum at 5:23 PM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks stbalbach - I'd be fine if a mod replaced my link with yours. And lipsum, I definitely had a good laugh at the multitude of times she wrote "Pussy", and this post actually started out as a single link to Letters from a Cat.
posted by cashman at 5:34 PM on August 25, 2008

I don't want to be all negative here, but Contact was a crappy movie.
posted by LordSludge at 5:55 PM on August 25, 2008

Great post. Jackson's writings infuriated people like Teddy Roosevelt:

The purely sentimental historians take no account of the difficulties under which we labored, nor of the countless wrongs and provocations we endured, while grossly magnifying the already lamentably large number of injuries for which we really deserve to be held responsible. To get a fair idea of the Indians of the present day and of our dealings with them, we have fortunately one or two excellent books, notably Hunting Grounds of the Great West and Our Wild Indians, by Col. Richard I. Dodge (Hartford, 1882), and Massacres of the Mountains, by J. P. Dunn (New York, 1886). As types of the opposite class, which are worse than valueless and which nevertheless might cause some hasty future historian, unacquainted with the facts, to fall into grievous error, I may mention, A Century of Dishonor, by H. H. (Mrs. Helen Hunt Jackson), and Our Indian Wards (George W. Manypenny).

The latter is a mere spiteful diatribe against various Army officers, and neither its manner nor its matter warrants more than an allusion . . . . As a history it would be beneath criticism were it not that the high character of the author and her excellent literary work in other directions have given it a fictitious value and made it much quoted by the large class of amiable but maudlin fanatics concerning whom it may be said that the excellence of their intentions but indifferently atones for the invariable folly and ill effect of their actions. It is not too much to say that the book is thoroughly untrustworthy from cover to cover, and that not a single statement it contains should be accepted without independent proof; for even those that are not absolutely false are often as bad on account of so much of the truth having been suppressed.

posted by LarryC at 9:27 PM on August 25, 2008

I am re-reading Ramona right now. It's on my nightstand. I found it in the house we bought about 5 years ago and read it one night when I couldn't sleep. I couldn't believe then that more people had not read it. Thanks for posting this!
posted by jeanmari at 7:46 AM on August 26, 2008

« Older Julie, Don't Go!   |   If not in your backyard, then whose? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments