By Kathleen Spring
In a time when it was not appropriate for women to be activists in the public eye, Helen Hunt Jackson brushed aside the improprieties, and published two major books to show the adverse conditions that American Indians were being subjected to on reservations.
The Lyons Historic Society is sponsoring a solo performance by re-enactor Bonnie Kohl on Sunday, May 12, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the log cabin of Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse, in Lyons. This
fundraiser is for museum exterior repairs in the summer of 2013. Attendees can come alone, or bring their mom and celebrate Mother’s Day! Mrs. Kohl is a former educator and member of Territorial Daughters of Colorado. She will perform Mrs. Jackson’s story, from her early days on the east coast, to her marriages to prominent men, her travels in California to study the Indian reservations, and her settling in Colorado Springs.
The research for her book, “A Century of Dishonor,” was done while travelling with U.S. Indian agent Abbot Kinney throughout Southern California. She documented shameful conditions regarding the residents’ health and education. She initially submitted a fifty-six page report to the politicians in Washington, D.C. Jackson outlined a substantial government relief effort, which included such things as more Indian schools. A bill representing most of her recommendations passed the U.S. Senate, but it died in the House of Representatives. It remains in print today.
She next wrote a novel that she felt might reach out to the general public, and their shock and scorn would move the government to do more for the Indians. Her novel “Ramona” dramatized the prejudice toward mixed marriages among the Indians, Mexicans, and Americans. To her disappointment, it was taken on as a romance novel, and was later adapted for other media, including three films, a stage play, and television productions.
Critics call the book “unquestionably the best novel yet produced by an American woman” and named it, along with “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the most moral novels of the 19th century. It has been republished approximately three hundred times, with six hundred thousand copies being sold.
Attendees can enjoy the speaker and buffet lunch of barbecue beef/pork sandwiches and the fixings for a donation of $15. Seating is limited to sixty people, and it is suggested that you pre-buy your tickets. Tickets are available at ReRuns (436 Main), open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or contact Lyons Historical Society Office (303) 823-5925. Mail checks to the Lyons Historical Society, P. O. Box 9, Lyons 80540, and pick up your tickets at “will call” on the day of the performance/benefit. There will also be a silent auction table, with a number of treasures you can consider buying for your mother. Lyons history books and DVDs, and the Boulder County historical school calendar will also be available.