Kinzie, Juliette (Augusta) Magill

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KINZIE, Juliette (Augusta) Magill

Born 11 September 1806, Middletown, Connecticut; died 15 September 1870, Amagansett, New York

Daughter of Arthur and Frances Wolcott Magill; married John H.Kinzie, 1830; children: seven

Born to a wealthy and established Connecticut family, Juliette Magill Kinzie was the eldest child and an only daughter. She was educated at home by her mother and an uncle, and then, in 1821, attended the Emma Willard Female Seminary in New Haven. Married to an Indian agent at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin, Kinzie later used Winnebago as the scene for her novels. She and her husband settled in Chicago in 1834, where she quickly became the early settlement's social force. She assisted in founding St. Luke's Hospital and St. James Church, the first Episcopalian church in the settlement. The Kinzies were parents of seven children, only three of whom survived their parents.

Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and of Some Preceding Events (1844) records the memories of "eye-witnesses of the events." It contains a detailed description of the raid of Chicago conducted by the Pottowattamie Nation, the Ottawas, Shawnees, Winnebagoes, and Calumets. Kinzie claims her Narrative was "made simply for the purpose of preserving to the children of the writer a faithful picture of the perilous scenes through which those near and dear to them had been called to pass." Focusing on personal incidents as remembered by members of the Kinzie family, the Narrative utilizes conversation and an anecdotal style. It was considered factual enough, however, to be used two years later by Henry Brown in his History of Illinois.

Kinzie's second work, Wau-Bun: The 'Early Day' in the Northwest (1856), is generally considered her best novel. A long work about the activities and experiences of settlers in the Midwest, it describes Kinzie's journeys through Wisconsin and Illinois and includes "pictures of domestic life and experience." As described in her introduction, her technique depends on the use of journals and letters written during the period, for her goal was to write with an "air of truth and reality." Wau-Bun is also very much concerned with the Native Americans, and Kinzie alternately portrays their "Acuteness and Simplicity." She reprints her vivid description of the massacre of the Chicago settlement, and the Battle of Lake Erie and the rebuilding of Fort Dearborn are prominently featured.

Walter Ogilby (1869) is a departure from the scene and style of Kinzie's earlier works. Set in New England during the 1820s, the novel is a sort of imitation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It concerns the romantic adventures of Alice Morton, who finally marries the Byronic Ogilby.

Kinzie's final novel, Mark Logan, published posthumously in 1871, returns to the subject matter of Wau-Bun. Set in Detroit at the turn of the 19th century, the novel depicts the experiences of English and French settlers, military families, and Native Americans as they interact on the frontier. The plot revolves around the hero's disguise as an Native American, the surrender of Red Bird, and the Winnebago War. Though her writing is filled with the flaws of popular writing—stereotyped heroes and heroines, contrived plots, and stilted dialogue—her best work captures the everyday experiences of men and women struggling to survive on an alien frontier.


Reference works:

NAW (1971).