How was Jane Johnson Schoolcraft important to the Romantic movement in America?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is a new figure in American literary history. Having lived from 1800 to 1842, she was the daughter of a northern Ojibwa Indian mother and an Irish immigrant father. Schoolcraft was immersed in and raised in both cultures. Her mother continued the Ojibwa oral traditions while her father provided her with an extensive library. Schoolcraft's literary work similarly combined these traditions since she translated and transcribed old Ojibwa stories, legends and songs into English and composed original work in English, though sometimes she composed in the Ojibwa language. Schoolcraft didn't publish during her lifetime except in the small, handwritten literary magazine her husband Henry Rowe Schoolcraft published in their home of Sault Ste. Marie in the state of Michigan. For this reason her contribution and importance to the American literary world and Romantic movement during her lifetime were smaller than that of some others.

When Henry Schoolcraft began provoking her sorrow by asserting that she was not properly raised and therefore had no understanding of a proper woman's role, Jane Schoolcraft turned to writing devotional poems that addressed the question of a woman's proper role. It is said the she once told a visitor that the Ojibwa value women more highly than do Europeans or Americans. As the first Indian woman writer to contribute to literature; to write poetry; and to write Ojibwa oral narratives in English, she was important to the Romantic movement within her own sphere in America because of her contributions of tales of Indian life told in diction reflecting the Ojibwa diction of daily life and by revealing another side, a cross-cultural side, of the discussion of the role of woman in nineteenth-century America. As her titles show, Jane addressed the questions that arose from events of her personal life from a Romantic perspective of self-expression: "My heart is gone with him afar," "Welcome, welcome to my arms," "Language Divine!" "Sweet Willy," "Lines Written under severe Pain and Sickness," etc.