John Winslow Whitman


John Winslow Whitman was, for a brief time, 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 Helen’s home on Benefit Street as he was pursuing her older sister, Rebecca. Winslow often chatted with the young 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 Helen had become, and they became engaged for a lengthy four years.

They married in Long Island on July 10, 1828, and Helen was able to escape 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. This would serve as an outlet for Helen and allow her to publish her own pieces through her husband’s affiliations. Boston was a super progressive city and introduced Helen to numerous movements that she would carry with her throughout her whole life. Some of these movements included abolition, temperance, Spiritualism, mesmerism, phrenology, transcendentalism, and even vegetarianism (we don’t exactly know if Helen was a vegetarian, but she did care for the welfare of animals).

One July evening while Helen and Winslow were visiting her relatives in Providence, Winslow took a walk with Helen’s mother Anna to the Grotto down by the Moses Brown bridge. It was on this walk that Helen believed Winslow caught a cold that would eventually end his life. Some years later in 1833, while Winslow was visiting his father in Pembroke, Massachusetts and while Helen was visiting her mother in Providence, Winslow died from complications of that lingering illness, leaving Helen a widow. She had no idea of his death until five days later when William Patten called on Helen at her mother’s house on Benefit Street to tell her the news. Helen was devastated.

Helen 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.

Below is a photo I took of Whitman’s grave in Center Cemetery (Pembroke, MA).