In addition to this post, check out my short post over at the A-to-Z Challenge Blog for a little encouragement to get through the rest of the A-to-Z!
Okay, so I watched Labrynth today, for the umpteenillionth time. I was trying to think about what I'd like to write about for "H," and along came the helping hands - "What do you mean? We are helping. We're helping hands."
As writers, we tend to become accustomed to operating on a solo basis. We think of our ideas on our own, for the most part, we brainstorm alone, and we often do better locked up in our dungeons - alone - to write.
As such, it's easy to forget that we need help, too. Critiques, feedback, inspiration, support. All of these things come from outside of us, helping to better our work. Even getting together with like minded people and chatting for a bit can be an inspiration. Or visiting another writer's blog, maybe starting a dialog of some sort. When you're struggling, seek out another writer. Whether it's to ask them for specific help, or maybe just to blow off a little steam with someone who understands, helping hands can pull you out of a creative slump and get you back on track.
Helen went to the Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute, where she befriended Emily Dickinson. They would remain friends for life.
Helen married Edward Hunt, a captain in the U.S. Army, in 1852. They had two sons together, both of whom died in childhood. Her husband died in 1863. In order to soothe the ache in her heart, Helen began writing. She found some success with her writing, but because her health was not what it should be, was urged to go to Colorado Springs, CO. The area was known for being a curative, thanks to the fresh mountain air, dry climate, and various healing springs.
In 1875, in Colorado Springs, she married William Jackson, taking his last name. She continued to write, though it was under the pen name H.H. or Saxe Holm. Most of what she wrote was poetry. That is, until she found the inspiration that would drive her for the rest of her life.
She felt the country wasn't aware of the actual treatment of the Native peoples, so she wrote the book A Century of Dishonor, published in 1881 under her own name, rather than the usual pen names. It detailed the suffering of the people, as well as the government's misdeeds in making promises they couldn't keep and their breaking of treaties. She was also very vocal about this mistreatment, trying to convince people to sign petitions, collecting money to save the Ponca, investigating the government's misbehavior and backstabbing, and getting the stories in the newspapers, including the New York Times.
Legally stymied, Helen took inspiration from another friend of hers: Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. She wrote her romance novel, Ramona, a story about a half-Indian girl and her full-blooded husband, and their trials and tribulations in early California. The book was a massive success, ranked up there with Uncle Tom's Cabin, though, unfortunately, that ranking came after her death. Her work of fiction brought more favorable attention to the Indian's plight than her non-fiction book. As they say, you can catch more flies with honey...
Helen was so intent on saving those who had been marginalized by our society, that she didn't take care of herself. She died in San Francisco in 1885 of stomach cancer. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetary, here in Colorado Springs, having left behind a legacy to rival that of her famous friends.
1. Several of her books are still in print, and Ramona has been made into films three times.
2. Not only was she friends with Emily Dickinson and Harriet Beecher Stowe, but Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a good friend.
3. It is believed the "ill health" that brought Helen out to Colorado Springs was tuberculosis.
4. Her husband, William Sharpless Jackson, was a prominent citizen here in Colorado Springs, having been instrumental in its formation.
5. She sent a copy of her book A Century of Dishonor to each member of congress. On it, in red, was a quote from Bejamin Franklin: "Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations."
Ever heard of Helen Hunt Jackson? Did she go too far, or just do what needed to be done? Who are your helping hands?
May you find your Muse.
*Letter H courtesy of Mohamed Ibrahim, via clker.com
**Bust photos of Helen Hunt Jackson, 1888, by A. Frank Randall [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***Helen Hunt Jackson leaning, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
****Helen Hunt Jackson, standing, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, author unknown
*****Letter to Grover Cleveland, Wikimedia Commons, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wellcome, Henry S. (Henry Solomon), Sir, 1853-1936