Sunday, October 16, 2016

15 October 1830: Helen Fiske (Helen Hunt Jackson) born in Amherst

On October 15, 1830, Helen Fiske was born in Amherst. The friend of Emily Dickinson, who was born two months later (the arrival of both children is entered on the same page in Dr. Isaac Cutler's "baby book," or record of deliveries) became an author in her own right. Unlike Dickinson, Helen Hunt (Helen Hunt Jackson after widowhood and remarriage) chose to make a career of her writing.

She also became devoted to the cause of Native American rights. Her best known works are
 A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United States Government's Dealings with Some of the Indian Tribes (1881) and the novel, Ramona (1884), which she hoped would be a Native American pendant to Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Jackson is prominently depicted on the Amherst History Mural (2005) by David Fichter, in the 1730 West Cemetery. Although the wall on which the mural is painted will fall to the wrecking ball when the former motel building is replaced by a large new mixed-use development, the developers have contracted with the artist to repaint the mural in full scale on a more suitable surface as part of the new building.

• From the vaults: More background on Jackson, her home, and the Amherst Writers' Walk.
Biographical sketch from "Mass Moments," a this-day-in-history service of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities

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