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Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy (1865–1946) - Native American History

maine wrote penobscot indian

Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, a leading authority on the Penobscot Indians as well as mammals and ornithology, was born on June 18, 1865, to Manley and Emeline Freeman (Wheeler) Hardy. Her ancestors had come from England in 1630, and her father was the largest fur trader in Maine. Fannie was his close companion, often accompanying him on his trips, and his relationship with the Penobscot Indians provided Eckstorm with much of her material in later years.

Eckstorm attended high school in Bangor, Maine, and Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. She entered Smith College in 1885 with advanced standing. During her time at Smith, she founded the college Audubon Society and discovered Charles G. Leland’s The Algonquin Legends of New England (1884), which resulted in her own studies of Native Americans. She received an A.B. in 1888, and after graduation she went with her father on the first of many canoe trips through the wilderness; she was often the first white woman to enter the area and probably one of the few to speak the local Indian dialects. She was an expert taxidermist and from 1889 to 1891 served as one of the first women superintendents of schools in Maine. She also joined her father in the fight for fish and game protection laws to control out-of-state hunters by writing a series of articles for Forest and Stream .

On October 24, 1893, she married Rev. Jacob A. Eckstorm in Portland,Oregon. A daughter, Katherine Hardy, was born in 1894, but died in 1901; a son, Paul Frederick, was born in 1896. The two lived in Portland, Oregon City, Eastport, Maine, and Providence, Rhode Island, before his death in 1899. Eckstorm returned to Brewer, Maine, took up taxidermy, became an expert on ornithology, and was one of the first women to be elected to the American Ornithologists’ Union (1887). She began writing professionally, and in 1901 published two books: The Bird Book , a children’s book, and The Woodpeckers . In 1904 she wrote about the Penobscot inhabitants in The Penobscot Man , which extolled the virtues of river drivers and woodsmen. In 1904 she wrote David Libbey: Penobscot Woodsman and River Driver . In 1908 she wrote a critique of Thoreau’s Maine Woods and founded the public library in Brewer. She contributed a historical survey of lumbering in Louis C. Hatch’s Maine: A History in 1919.

Eckstorm began collecting and analyzing folk songs, and in 1927 she wrote Minstrelsy of Maine: Folk Songs and Ballads of the Woods and Coast with Mary Winslow Smyth of Elmira College. Two years later, she wrote British Ballads from Maine: The Development of Popular Songs, with Text and Airs with Smyth and Phillips Barry of Cambridge. That same year, she received an honorary M.A. from the University of Maine, and in 1930 she was co-founder of the Folk Song Society of the Northeast.

At this point in her career, Eckstorm began concentrating on the Indian tribes that she knew so well from travels with her father. In 1932 Eckstorm wrote The Handicrafts of the Modern Indians of Maine . Two years later she wrote Indian Brother with Hubert Vansant Coryell, and in 1936 they wrote The Scalphunters . She wrote Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast in 1941. In 1942 she fell and was housebound with a broken hip; her son died the next year. In 1945 she wrote her last book, Old John Neptune and Other Maine Indian Shamans . Fannie Eckstorm died of angina pectoris on December 31, 1946.

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