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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Helen Hunt Jackson

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The time had now come for her to do her last and perhaps her best work. She could not write without a definite purpose, and now the purpose that settled down upon her heart was to help the defrauded Indians. She believed they needed education and Christianization rather than extermination. She left her home and spent three months in the Astor Library of New York, writing her Century of Dishonor, showing how we have despoiled the Indians and broken our treaties with them. She wrote to a friend, "I cannot think of anything else from night to morning and from morning to night." So untiringly did she work that she made herself ill, and was obliged to go to Norway, leaving a literary ally to correct the proofs of her book.

At her own expense, she sent a copy to each member of Congress. Its plain facts were not relished in some quarters, and she began to taste the cup that all reformers have to drink; but the brave woman never flinched in her duty. So much was the Government impressed by her earnestness and good judgment, that she was appointed a Special Commissioner with her friend, Abbott Kinney, to examine and report on the condition of the Mission Indians in California.

Could an accomplished, tenderly reared woman go into their adobe villages and listen to their wrongs? What would the world say of its poet? Mrs. Jackson did not ask; she had a mission to perform, and the more culture, the more responsibility. She brought cheer and hope to the red men and their wives, and they called her "the Queen." She wrote able articles about them in the Century.

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The report made by Mr. Kinney and herself, which she prepared largely, was clear and convincing. How different all this from her early life! Mrs. Jackson had become more than poet and novelist; even the leader of an oppressed people. At once, in the winter of 1883, she began to write her wonderfully graphic and tender Ramona, and into this, she said, "I put my heart and soul." The book was immediately reprinted in England, and has had great popularity. She meant to do for the Indian what Mrs. Stowe did for the slave, and she lived long enough to see the great work well in progress.

This true missionary work had greatly deepened the earnestness of the brilliant woman. Not always tender to other peoples' "hobbies," as she said, she now had one of her own, into which she was putting her life. Her horizon, with her great intellectual gifts, had now become as wide as the universe. Had she lived, how many more great questions she would have touched.

In June, 1884, falling on the staircase of her Colorado home, she severely fractured her leg, and was confined to the house for several months. Then she was taken to Los Angeles, Cal., for the winter. The broken limb mended rapidly, but malarial fever set in, and she was carried to San Francisco. Her first remark was, as she entered the house looking out upon the broad and lovely bay, "I did not imagine it was so pleasant! What a beautiful place to die in!"

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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