"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 here in Amherst. She spent her childhood in town and was a girlhood friend of Emily Dickinson. Helen’s father, Nathan Fiske, served as a professor of Latin and Greek at Amherst College and the family home was loving and intellectually nurturing. However, both of Hunt Jackson's parents died of tuberculosis when she was in her mid-teens. A mixture of happiness and tragedy defined her early 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, Helen had lost her husband and both of her sons to accident and illnesses. Following these sad experiences, she began to pursue literary ambitions. 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 the forced removal of Native Americans from their lands, Hunt Jackson became committed to calling attention to their plight through her writing. Working for reforms on behalf of the Ponca and White River Ute tribes of Colorado, she also documented the treaties that the U.S. government had broken with these tribes as well as the Cherokees, Delawares, Cheyennes, Nez Perces, Sioux, and Winnebagoes. After a successful writing career, Hunt Jackson died of cancer in 1885 in San Francisco. She is buried in Colorado Springs.
Helen Hunt Jackson’s early literary works focused on travel and domesticity. However, her mature contributions included 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 and distributed to every member of Congress in opposition to the Dawes Act. In 1884, Hunt 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.
Although she authored stories and books belonging to several genres, Helen Hunt Jackson’s literary legacy is most defined by her writings that champion social justice for Native Americans, calling European settlers' treatment of them a "national shame." In Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West, Katherine Scott Sturdevant argues that Hunt Jackson was the Harriet Beecher Stowe of the Native American cause. The majority of Jackson’s personal and literary papers are held in the archives at Colorado College.
Helen Hunt 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, Hunt Jackson left her family homestead and went away to Pittsfield Academy, a boarding school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1921, owner Robert P. Utter sold this 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 3.5 miles away. The next stop is Charles Eastman's House located at 850 Belchertown Road. Drive north on So. Pleasant Street for .5 miles to Colege Avenue/MA Route 9. Turn east on Route 9, which will become Belchertown Road, for 3 miles to 850 Belchertown Road.