Colorado Springs, CO

From tragedy to advocacy, the life and legacy of Helen Hunt Jackson

Colorado Jill
Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Cañon Park in Colorado SpringsPhoto byAuthor

(Colorado Springs, CO) A magnificent waterfall in one of the most beautiful parks in Colorado Springs is a tribute to a woman who gave a voice to those in need.

Who was Helen Hunt Jackson?

Helen Hunt Jackson was no stranger to hardship or tragedy. She was born in 1830 in Massachusetts and raised in a strict, scholarly environment. Her father was a minister and professor at Amherst College, and she was childhood friends with Emily Dickinson, the famous American poet.

When she was 12, her mother died from tuberculosis, and her father passed three years later, leaving her to be raised by an aunt.

When Jackson was twenty-one years old, she married Captain Edward Hunt, a West Point graduate. They had two sons, losing their firstborn as an infant from a brain disease.

Jackson's husband died in a military accident during the Civil War, and four years later, she suffered a devastating loss when her nine-year-old son, Rennie, died from diphtheria.

Following these tragedies, Jackson turned to writing for solace, support, and healing, publishing her first poem three months after Rennie's death. During her lifetime, she published five collections of poetry, travel books, and children's literature, many under the pen name of "H.H."

In 1873, at age forty-three, Helen Hunt (as she was known at the time) moved from the East Coast to Colorado Springs for health reasons, and two years later, she married William Sharpless Jackson.
Helen Hunt Jackson display at the visitor center near Helen Hunt Falls. The center is only open in the summer.Photo byAuthor

Author and Advocate

After settling in Colorado Springs, Helen Hunt Jackson continued to write, but her focus began to shift.

She attended a lecture in Boston in 1879 where Chief Standing Bear described his tribe's removal from their ancestral lands. This lecture had a profound impact on Jackson, and she began researching and campaigning for Native American rights.

In 1881, she wrote A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United States Government's Dealings with some of the Indian Tribes. Her book explored flawed government policies and the cruel treatment of Native Americans, hoping to raise public awareness, stimulate outcry, and trigger necessary reform.

Jackson was among the first authors to write about Native American plights, advocating for those suffering injustices and needing a voice.

Helen Hunt Falls

Jackson died in 1885 at age fifty-five and was buried at Inspiration Point (the top of Seven Falls) in Cheyenne Canyon on the southwest side of Colorado Springs.

She left a lasting impression on the nation, and so many people visited her grave that the peace and beauty of the canyon were threatened. In 1891, her remains were moved to Evergreen Cemetary in Colorado Springs, where she rests today.

The year of Jackson's death, the City of Colorado Springs established North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

This beautiful, scenic area has an extensive trail system, two visitor centers, and a waterfall named after Helen Hunt Jackson. There is a visitor center at the waterfall that is open in the summer months where guests can learn more about this amazing woman who called Colorado Springs home.

Helen Hunt Jackson grew from tragedy to triumph. She was an author, advocate, and role model who was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985. A hometown hero with a lasting legacy.

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Jill is based in Colorado and writes about hidden gems, history, the great outdoors, and local events.

Colorado Springs, CO

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