Jane Hamilton-Merritt (born Mary Jane LaRowe, 1937), in Noble County, Indiana is a retired college professor, photojournalist, author, and animal rights and animal husbandry advocate. She resides in Redding, Connecticut. In 1999, she was inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Some of her work has focused on breeding and raising Llamas and Alpaca.
Early life, education, and teaching
Hamilton-Merritt was a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, where she reportedly taught writing and journalism for nearly two decades (1979–97) on a part-time basis. In 1991–92 she was a visiting faculty fellow at Yale University. In 1997, she claimed to have retired from teaching at Southern Connecticut State University, to work full-time for the resettlement of a group of Hmong living in a compound near Bangkok, Thailand. She also raises llama and alpacas on her Connecticut farm, in her retirement.
Raising Alpacas & Llamas
Photojournalism and advocacy
Hamilton-Merritt reportedly went to Vietnam as a free-lance war correspondent, reportedly spending six years covering aspects of the Vietnam War, including the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos. She claims to have won the Inland Daily Press Association’s Grand Prize Trophy for her purported front-line war coverage, but there is no independent sources to document her claim. Print articles, and repeated electronic archive research, from this period have not turned up under either of her names, raising questions as to when and how her Vietnam-War-era work was published. To date, no known independent sources exist of her writings during this period.
Hamilton-Merritt is also known for the work she has done on behalf of the Laotian and Hmong people, who were U.S. allies in the Vietnam War before being largely forgotten in the aftermath. In 1980, she wrote an early story in Reader’s Digest on reported chemical and biological warfare in communist Laos under the Marxist government. She has worked as an adviser to several American school systems with large numbers of Hmong children. Beginning in the early 1990s, she worked with several non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations seeking to stop forced repatriation of Hmong political refugees from camps in Thailand back to communist Laos, on the grounds that this puts them at great risk of execution or slavery.
For her work to help bring awareness about the Hmong people's situation and their recent history, Hamilton-Merritt has reportedly been largely self-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she did not receive. Mr. Burke Marshall, of Yale Law School, reportedly wrote in support of her nomination: “They (the Hmong) are a people who have been deeply damaged and wronged by history and by the actions of great nations...”
Hamilton-Merritt was one of the editors of Indiana University's Vietnam War Era Classics Series.
Controversy and criticism
Hamilton-Merritt has been critical of Professor Alfred W. McCoy controversial writings about the Hmong people, General Vang Pao, Laos, and Southeast Asia during the period of North Vietnamese invasion of Laos. In return, Hamilton-Merritt's writings regarding Vang Pao and the Hmong have been criticized by McCoy.
- Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret War for Laos, 1942-1992 (Indiana University Press, 1993)
- A Meditator's Diary: A Western Woman's Unique Experiences in Thailand's Monasteries (1976)
- "Gas Warfare in Laos: Communism's Drive to Annihilate a People" (Reader's Digest, October 1980, pp. 81–88)
- "Hmong and Yao: Mountain Peoples of Southeast Asia" (Survive, 1982)
- "The Killing Fields of Laos" (interview, Vietnam, December 1993, pp. 46–53)
- "General Giap's Laotian Nemesis" (Vietnam, June 1995, pp. 27–32)
- Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association Newsletter, January 2016, http://www.galaonline.org
- Noble County, Indiana, Death Records. "Genealogical and Death Records of Noble County, Indiana, Noble County, Indiana, December 23, 2010, Death Notice, Claude LaRowe". gen.nobleco.lib.in.us. Noble County, Indiana, Public Library. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Jane Hamilton-Merritt". Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame website.
- Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association, January 2016, http://www.galaonline/board.html
- Smith, J. Christina. The Hmong, 1987-1995: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography, p. 11.
- Isthmus, 10 April 2007, Madison, Wisconsin, "Alfred McCoy Briefing Paper"