Helen Hunt Jackson

Childhood

Jackson was born October 15, 1830 – August 12, 1885. She and Emily Dickinson formed a friendship in childhood that would last throughout their lives. Jackson grew up in a literary environment, and was herself a noted poet and writer of children’s stories, novels, and essays. Helen's mother also died of tuberculosis when Jackson was 12.

Adulthood

Jackson's first husband, Edward Hunt,died in 1863, along with the deaths of both of her children. From the mid-1860s, she focused on establishing herself as a writer and sought publication. In 1875 she married her second husband, William S. Jackson.

Her Reform Movement

In 1879, Jackson's interests turned to Native Americans after hearing a lecture in Boston by Chief Standing Bear, of the Ponca Tribe. Standing Bear described the forcible removal of the Ponca from their Nebraska reservation. The Americans were mistreating the Indians and forcing them to move from reservation to reservation. These reservations were in plots of land that no one wanted, such as the desert. Where they suffered from disease, harsh climate, and poor supplies.

Legacy

Upset about the mistreatment of Native Americans, Jackson started investigating and publicizing government misconduct, circulating petitions, raising money, and writing letters to the New York Times on behalf of the Ponca. Helen wrote a book about Ramona, an orphan girl who was half Indian and half Scottish, raised in Spanish California Society, her Indian husband, and their struggles for land of their own. It was published as Ramona (1884). The characters were based on people known by Jackson and incidents which she had encountered. The book achieved lots of success among a wide public and was very popular. It was estimated to have been reprinted 300 times.