How did you find Schoolcraft’s writings? I had a hunch that she had written more than scholars realized, and so I started looking for more of her writings, especially in collections of the papers of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s husband, who was a compulsive saver. Some things were easy to find, and others took a lot of digging. The key was simply to follow every hunch and to keep looking and looking. For the fuller version of the story, see the Preface to The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky.
Do you like Schoolcraft’s writings aesthetically? Are they “good” literature? Yes, I do like them, and I find some of them deeply moving. Sometimes they are not what readers of our own time are accustomed to reading and liking, and sometimes they are, but I would say the same thing for many great writers of Schoolcraft’s time, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. One of the pleasures of reading is learning to expand our range as readers.
How did Schoolcraft die? When her husband Henry sailed to Europe in 1842, Jane decided not to undertake the trials of the voyage. She chose instead to visit with her sister Charlotte Johnston McMurray in Dundas, in what is now Ontario, Canada. One day, Charlotte unexpectedly found Jane dead, sitting in a chair. Although Jane Schoolcraft was frequently sick, we do not know what sickness led finally to her death.
What do Schoolcraft’s descendants think about the edition of her writing? Schoolcraft has no direct living descendants. Her children had no children, but she is related to many Ojibwe people. Of course, as I worked on the project, I discussed it with Ojibwe people from Schoolcraft’s area and from other areas, and they were extremely excited about the publication of Schoolcraft’s writing. I trust that Ojibwe readers from Schoolcraft’s region and beyond will continue to have a variety of interesting responses, in writing and in conversation, to Schoolcraft’s writing and her legacy. So far, the response has been enthusiastic. For responses from a wide range of audiences, see the News link and the Reviews link on the left.