John Winslow Whitman


For a brief time, John Winslow Whitman was the husband of Sarah Helen Power. He graduated Brown University in 1818 and practiced law in Boston. While a student at Brown, Winslow (as his family called him) often visited Sarah Helen’s home on Benefit Street as he was pursuing her older sister, Rebecca. Winslow often chatted with the young Sarah Helen and made her laugh with his practical jokes on her family. In 1824, after Rebecca decided to be with William Staples, Winslow realized the remarkable woman Sarah Helen had become, and they became engaged for a lengthy four years.

They married in Long Island on July 10, 1828, and Sarah Helen was able to flee her uptight home life and move with her new husband to Boston. Outside of his law practice, John Whitman was affiliated with two different publications: The Ladies’ Album and a newspaper called The Times. These would serve as an outlet for Sarah Helen to publish her own pieces of poetry, essays, and criticism. Boston was a progressive city that introduced Sarah Helen to numerous movements that she would carry with her throughout her whole life. These ideas and movements included: abolition, temperance, spiritualism, mesmerism, phrenology, transcendentalism, and even vegetarianism.

It was on a July evening in 1830, while Sarah Helen and her husband, Winslow, were visiting her relatives in Providence, that Winslow took a walk with Sarah Helen’s mother to the Grotto down by the Moses Brown bridge. Sarah Helen believed that it was on this walk when Winslow caught a cold that would eventually kill him. In 1833, while Winslow was visiting his father in Pembroke, Massachusetts, and while Sarah Helen was visiting her mother in Providence, Winslow died from complications of that lingering illness, leaving Sarah Helen a widow. She had not heard of his death until five days later when William Patten called on Sarah Helen at her mother’s house on Benefit Street to tell her the news.

Sarah Helen Whitman stayed in Providence from that point forward, donning the widow’s bonnet (as seen in Cephas Giovanni Thompson’s portrait painted in 1835). John Winslow Whitman was interred at Center Cemetery in Pembroke, Massachusetts.