Picture of author.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885)

Author of Ramona

53+ Works 1,234 Members 23 Reviews

About the Author

Image credit: Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Works by Helen Hunt Jackson

Ramona (1884) 744 copies
A Century of Dishonor (1881) 311 copies
Letters from a Cat (1879) 20 copies
Nelly's Silver Mine (1924) 20 copies
The Annotated Ramona (1989) 15 copies
Bits of Travel 4 copies
Poems, by Helen Jackson (2012) 3 copies
A Separate Star (2008) 3 copies
Cat Stories (2009) 3 copies
Verses 3 copies
Mercy Philbrick's Choice (2007) 2 copies
Glimpses of Three Coasts (1886) 2 copies
Between Whiles (1887) 2 copies
Saxe Holm's Stories (2007) 2 copies
Hetty's Strange History (1886) 2 copies
A Calendar of Sonnets (2015) 1 copy

Associated Works

In the Nursery (1932) — Contributor, some editions — 283 copies
Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology (2002) — Contributor — 228 copies
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (2006) — Contributor — 161 copies
A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry (1929) — Contributor — 128 copies
Poems Between Women (1997) — Contributor — 91 copies
American Sonnets: An Anthology (2007) — Contributor — 65 copies
The Vintage Book of American Women Writers (2011) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Other Woman: Stories of Two Women and a Man (1993) — Contributor — 18 copies
Golden Tales of the Southwest (1939) — Contributor — 4 copies


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Jackson, Helen Maria Hunt (married)
Fiske, Helen Maria (born)
Other names
Holm, Saxe
Date of death
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Place of death
San Francisco, California, USA
Places of residence
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA (birth)
San Francisco, California, USA (death)
Colorado, USA
Dickinson, Emily (friend)
Short biography
Helen Maria Fiske was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the daugher of a minister and professor at Amherst College. She was a school friend of Emily Dickinson, and the two correspondended all their lives. In 1852, she married Edward Bissell Hunt, a military officer, with whom she had two sons. Following the premature deaths of her husband and her children, Helen remarried in 1875 to William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker. She took the name Jackson and published some of her works as Helen Hunt Jackson, anonymously, or under the pseudonym "Saxe Holm." Her first novel Mercy Philbrick’s Choice (1876) is considered a fictionalized portrait of her friend Emily Dickinson. It was followed by Ramona (1884), which became extremely popular and is the work for which she's best-known today. Along with Ramona, her book Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United States Government's Dealings with some of the Indian Tribes (1881), championed the rights of Native Americans, a cause she supported for many years. Many of Helen Hunt Jackson's stories, poems, and personal reminiscences were collected and published posthumously in Sonnets and Lyrics, Glimpses of Three Coasts (1886) and Between Whiles (1886). She died at the age of 54.



A classic romance originally published in 1884 by Helen Hunt Jackson (Oct 15, 1830 - Aug 12, 1885).

This is one I have never heard of before until my daughter, just a couple of weeks ago went hiking on the Seven Falls Trail to Inspiration Point in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and ran across a memorial for this author, Helen Hunt Jackson. She immediately sent me a screenshot, knowing two things about me: I love graves, and I love reading, which this book, “Ramona” was mentioned on her memorial. What we didn’t notice in the photo, at first, was that the author and I share the exact same birthday, October 15th, except she was born 130 years before me. So, of course, I HAD to read her book.

After the death of Helen’s first husband and two sons, she met and married her second husband in Colorado Springs. They moved to San Francisco where she became an activist for the rights of the Native Americans, which she wrote about in a previous book, A Century of Dishonor (1881). And three years later, she would write this romance novel, Ramona (1884), based on the prejudices and racism from the migrating Americans to the west, and also the prejudices from the Mexicans, just as the Mexican-American War for the California territory was ending in 1846.

I will now have to add her book, A Century of Dishonor, which depicts these governments exploits to find out her truths. I do believe the things shown in this novel could and probably did happen, knowing the nature of mankind, and also for the fact that my ancestors, the Acadians, experienced a very similar fate up in Nova Scotia in 1755, a whole century earlier, an event known by all Cajuns of today as the Great Deportation.

The story line was actually pretty good, better than some of the other classics I’ve read. But, when I got to the last 1/3 of the book, the author completely failed in trying to write a southern Tennessee accent. It could have been forgiven if it hadn’t been used so extensively and in such lengthy paragraphs. I struggled to decipher just exactly what was being said, and I’m from the south. All in all, I’d give another shot at another book written by this author.

I also have a free eBook from Amazon on my Kindle...4/12/2021.
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MissysBookshelf | 15 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
Originally published in 1881. This e-book is only $.99 on Amazon. If you have Native American blood, then this is a must-read. Although I find Helen Jackson’s writing style and the legalese language of the direct quotes from historic documents makes this one difficult book to read, I do believe it to be a most important and necessary book, closest to the time-period of the Indian Wars, with great genealogical data for anyone researching their ancestry. It’s interesting to note that the author was alive, and only 45 years old, when Sitting Bull was roaming around and raiding and killing the whites in years 1876 and 1877; and when Red Cloud and Spotted Tail bands, who originally roamed the whole Mississippi Valley from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, were removed to the State of Nebraska; and when the Battle of Little Big Horn occurred in Montana in 1876 where Custer was killed along with all 210 of his soldiers of the 7th Calvary of the U.S. Army.

Jackson, towards the end of her life, became an avid activist in 1880's for the Native Americans while living in San Francisco, California. The Appendix is chock-full of her letters and visitations to many of the Native American reservations and tribes in California. She provides the current conditions, as of the printing of this book in 1881, of almost all the tribes throughout the US: their numbers, location, and their social and industrial condition. If you are Native American you may find these stats of your ancestry from 1881 very interesting. Otherwise, it's very dry reading.

Jackson's objective was to "show cause for national shame in the matter of the treatment of Native Americans". She mostly presented different treaties and how they were broken between the US government and a few specific major tribes: Delawares, Cheyennes, Nez Perces, Sioux, Poncas, Winnebagoes and Cherokees, along with their many bands, and what events lead up to the massacres: 1) the Conestoga massacres, 2) the Gnadenhutten massacre, and 3) the Apache massacres. All quotations in the book, where the name of the authority was not cited, are from Official Reports of the War Department or from the Department of the Interior.

Still, keep in mind when it comes to reading history, finding the 'absolute' truth in major events that changed America's future is nearly impossible to obtain. You usually get versions of the truth. If historians are often found to be biased and persuasive toward their opinions, how much more so the activists. A good book to follow up after this one would be “Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life” by Native American David Treuer (2012). The author is from the Ojibwes of northern Minnesota and grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation. He tells you of their history and current plight as of 2012. It appears that territory boundaries were still an issue between Native and non-native Americans. I have extensive notes and thoughts from “Rez Life” here on Goodreads.

The author states, on page 57, regarding the atrocities and broken treaties towards the Indians by the US government: "There is not a country, a people, a community in which it would be even attempted!"

Well, that is not true at all. In 1599, when the Spanish were discovering and conquering territories in America, specifically New Mexico (a.k.a. New Spain), there they massacred over 800 of the Acoma Pueblos and took over 500 prisoners. But, not only that, of those remaining, they cut off the right foot of the surviving men over age 25 years so they could never run again, and they were forced into slavery for 20 years. Males from 12-25 and females over age 12 were enslaved to government officials and to missions. A great historical novel about this event is told in “The Last Snake Runner” by Kimberley Griffiths Little (2014). Although for young readers, it is a great 5-star read to learn from. You can also Duck Duck Go to read more facts about the Acoma Pueblos Tribe online.

My own ancestry, the Acadians who fled France from religious persecution and settled in Nova Scotia, also experienced a displacement back in 1755. After a long back and forth struggle of holding their own and trying to keep their homes from the French, then the British, the Acadians were displaced from Nova Scotia, Canada, by the British government who finally won the war for that territory. At the final moment, the men were called to gather for “meetings” at the local forts and churches, and being unarmed, they were locked inside for a few days while ships pulled into the harbor. Without notice, they were loaded up, their wives and children were also loaded, not caring if the families stayed together or not, and were deported to different ports along America’s east coast (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina...Virginia refused to accept 1,150 Acadians, so these were shipped to England). They figured if they kept them separated, then they wouldn’t be able to gather again and become a force. This is commonly known among the Cajuns today as the “Great Deportation”. Over 10,000 were deported from Nova Scotia, and they estimate that about 53% died from either drowning, disease, or were killed some other way. But, over time, some made it back up to Nova Scotia, many families gathered in Southern Louisiana where the French gave them a helping hand. This is where my family, the LeBlancs and Broussards, ended up.

This is the unfortunate nasty and evil truth of past wars while countries were being conquered for ownership, and boundaries marked, throughout world history. The Sand Creek Massacre committed by John Chivington and his troop, described in this book, were absolutely atrocious, over the top and can't be justified in any way. But he's not alone in this evil. Much blood has been shed for territory, for power all over the world by all races and cultures. Every single country is guilty of committing attrocities against other humanbeings, whether it be natives of other countries or even among their very own people. In the words of the 19th century British politician Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely".
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MissysBookshelf | 2 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
A book that truly lives up to the adjective landmark, as it was written in 1881 and the first to shine a light on the genocide of Native Americans, one of the two original sins of the United States.

Helen Hunt Jackson documented the conduct of European colonizers towards usually friendly Native Americans from seven tribes all over the country, and in so doing, clear patterns emerge, heartbreaking in their cruelty: continual treaty-making that gave Natives land, money, and equipment for farming, which was followed immediately by the United States Senate not ratifying or living up to the treaty, and colonizers squatting on the lands that had been declared sovereign. Any hostile act on the part of angered Natives met with asymmetrical responses to any and all Natives, even of different tribes. Outright massacres of Natives, sometimes after luring Natives in under the guise of a peaceful meal together, with butchery of the elderly, women, and children that is almost unimaginable. Even as Natives succeeded in adopting European ways, e.g. farming and schooling, white people motivated by greed and hatred continued to take land from them, with people in several states refusing to allow them to live there, which in turn meant new treaties, smaller land grants on worse land, and horrifying forced marches under brutal conditions. Lastly, turning reservations into what were essentially concentration camps, and deliberately starving Native Americans. We see all of this in each of the tribes Jackson covers, and her book is by no means complete.

Objectively speaking, it’s clear who the real “savages” were – and it makes my blood boil that Hollywood portrayed it in the reverse way in the century which followed, and American history was (and in many cases still is) taught in such a whitewashed manner.

To anyone who has read later history texts very little of what Jackson records is going to come as a surprise, and there are other books you should probably read first if you’re relatively new to the subject, such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Trail of Tears, or An American Genocide. However considering when this one was written, just when most of the genocide had been completed, right after Reconstruction ended and heading into a long interval where race relations were at their nadir – it’s extraordinary that a woman did extensive research and compiled the truth about a country that was (and is) pretty proud of itself. Indeed, the book went out of print until 1964, as the country simply did not want to acknowledge its crimes against humanity. For those reasons it’s essential reading to me.

Some quotes:
Chief Pachgantschilias of the Delawares on the white man (1787):
“I admit that there are good white men, but they bear no proportion to the bad; the bad must be the strongest; for they rule. They do what they please. They enslave those who are not of their color, although created by the same Great Spirit who created them. They would make us slaves if they could; but as they cannot do it, they kill us. There is no faith to be placed in their words. They are not like the Indians, who are only enemies while at war, and are friends in peace. They will say to an Indian, ‘My friend; my brother!’ They will take him by the hand, at the same moment, destroy him.

Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux (~1876):
“Tell them at Washington if they have one man who speaks the truth to send him to me, and I will listen to what he has to say.”

Unknown chief of the Cherokees (~1740):
“Why these are Christians at Savannah. Those are Christians at Frederica. Christians get drunk! Christians beat men! Me no Christian!”
And later:
“He that is above knows what he made us for. We know nothing; we are in the dark; but white men know much. And yet white men build great houses as if they were to live forever. But white men cannot live forever. In a little time white men will be dust as well as I.”
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3 vote
gbill | 2 other reviews | Mar 3, 2021 |
pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |



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