"Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what's in a name?"
-Helen Hunt Jackson
Helen Hunt Jackson was born Helen Maria Fiske on October 14, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She spent her childhood in Amherst and was a girlhood friend of renowned poet Emily Dickinson. Helen’s father, Nathan Fiske, served as a professor of Latin and Greek at Amherst College. Jackson’s childhood was characterized by a loving family life and an intellectually nurturing home environment. However, Jackson also experienced significant personal loss early on when both of her parents died of tuberculosis, or consumption, when she was in her mid-teens. A mixture of happiness and tragedy defined Jackson’s young adulthood as well. In 1852, Jackson married Edward Hunt, an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, with whom she had two sons. By 1865, Jackson had lost her husband and both of her sons to accident and illnesses. Following these tragic deaths, Jackson began to pursue her literary ambitions in earnest. She moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the early 1870s, at the advice of her physician who recommended it for her health. In 1874, she married William Sharpless Jackson, a railroad administrator from Colorado. After attending a lecture in 1897 about forced removal of Native Americans from their lands, Jackson became committed to calling attention to their plight through her writing. After a successful writing career, Jackson died of cancer in 1885 in San Francisco. She is buried in Colorado Springs.
Jackson’s early literary works focused on ravel and domesticity. She wrote several non-fiction accounts based on research she conducted about the treatment that Native Americans endured in the wake of American westward expansion. Her most notable work about of this topic was A Century of Dishonor, written in 1881. In 1884, Jackson wrote one of the most iconic works of her career, a novel entitled Ramona, which effectively conveyed the reality of Native American exploitation and suffering in California through a fictional story. The majority of Jackson’s personal and literary papers are held in the archives at Colorado College.
Although she authored stories and books belonging to several genres, Jackson’s literary legacy is most defined by her writings that champion social justice for Native Americans, most notably A Century of Dishonor written in 1881 and Ramona written in 1884. In Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West, Katherine Scott Sturdevant argues that Jackson was the Harriet Beecher Stowe of the Native American cause.
249 South Pleasant St.
Jackson’s childhood home was built in 1830, the year of her birth. Local architect Warren S. Howland designed the house, which was constructed in the Greek Revival Style. In the early 1840s, Jackson left her family homestead and went away to Pittsfield Academy, a boarding school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1921, owner Robert P. Utter sold Jackson’s childhood home to Amherst College. In 1999, a private citizen purchased the house. However, it became property of Amherst College again in 2009 and today it remains a part of the academic institution.
Directions to Next Stop
It is recommended to drive to the next house because it is spaced further away from the rest of the tour. The next stop is Charles Eastman's House located at 850 Belchertown Road.