Noelle A. Baker
Sarah Helen Power Whitman was born the second of five children to Nicholas and Anna Marsh Power in Providence, Rhode Island, on January 19, 1803. In what Whitman considered an occult synchronicity, she shared her birthday with Edgar Allan Poe, whom she would champion fearlessly against his many detractors in Edgar Poe and His Critics, ( 1860). Such daring characterizes Whitman's career as feminist, Spiritualist, poet, essayist, translator, and journalist. Whitman audaciously claimed the motto "Break all bonds."
After Nicholas Power's mercantile business failed in 1813, he abandoned his family for nineteen years, leaving them to struggle with constricting legal and financial difficulties. Nevertheless, Sarah Power atttended schools for young ladies, where she studied astronomy; geography; history; and French, German, and Italian literature. She read Byron feverishly and began composing her own verse.
In 1824 Sarah Helen Power was betrothed to John Winslow Whitman; they married in 1828. The literary-minded John Whitman wrote poetry and coedited the Boston Spectator and Ladies' Album and the Bachelors' Journal. He also promoted his fiancée's writing: Sarah Power first published her poetry in his Spectator ( 1827) as "Helen" ( Varner67). After their marriage, the Whitmans settled in Boston, where John Whitman practiced law.
After his death in 1833, Sarah Whitman returned to Providence. There, she flourished as a poet. Whitman continued to write poetry for the Ladies' Magazine, Godey's Lady's Book, United States Magazine and Democratic Review, and the Providence Daily Journal and gift books like The Ladies' Wreath ( 1837) and The Token ( 1842). Whitman's poetry also figured prominently in popular