Sarah Helen Power was born in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1828, she married John Winslow Whitman, a young lawyer from Massachusetts, and settled in Boston. Her husband died in 1833, after which Sarah Whitman returned to Providence to live with her mother and sister. She became active in the intellectual and literary life of the city, and established herself as an acclaimed poet and essayist. She was considered witty and well-read, and was fluent in several languages. She came to know a large circle of prominent New England philosophers and writers, including the Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. Sarah Whitman also became a feminist and advocate for women's suffrage. During the 1840s, she became a devotee of the Spiritualist movement. She's most famous today for her brief relationship with Edgar Allan Poe, whom she met at her home in 1848. He courted her urgently over a period of three months until she agreed to marry him. However, two days later, the engagement was broken off, and Poe returned to New York; they never saw each other again. After Poe's death, Sarah Whitman defended his character against those who tried to defame him. She also stood up for the poets Shelley, Goethe, and Lord Byron against their critics.