Walt Whitman's Family

Walt Whitman Photo

Walt Whitman is considered one of the greatest American poets of all time, known for his works that celebrate the self, nature, democracy, and individuality. However, little is known about the family that nurtured and supported him throughout his life. In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the life and background of Walt Whitman's family, exploring the various members, their relationships, and their contributions to his life and works.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York, to Walter Whitman Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Walter Sr. was a carpenter and farmer, while Louisa was a homemaker who raised their eight children. The Whitmans were of Dutch descent, and their ancestors had lived in America for several generations.

Walt Whitman was the second youngest of the eight children, and he grew up in a close-knit family. His siblings included brother George Washington Whitman, who was a printer, and sisters Louisa, Hannah, Mary, and Elizabeth. Another brother, Thomas Jefferson Whitman, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, while another sister, Margaret, passed away at a young age.

Growing up, Walt Whitman was deeply influenced by his mother Louisa, who instilled in him a love for nature and a passion for learning. She was a strong and independent woman who encouraged her children to read and explore the world around them. Louisa was also a devout Quaker, and her beliefs had a significant impact on Walt's upbringing and world view.

Walt's father, Walter Sr., was a strict but loving father who worked hard to provide for his family. He was a skilled carpenter who also had a deep love for nature and the outdoors. Despite his demanding schedule, he always made time for his children and was a supportive and loving presence in their lives.

Walt's education was limited, as he only attended school until the age of 11. However, he was an avid reader and self-taught himself through the books he borrowed from friends and neighbors. He also learned a great deal from his father, who taught him the skills of carpentry and farming.

Walt Whitman began his professional life as a teacher, but he quickly turned to journalism and eventually became a prolific writer and poet. He is best known for his works Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855, and "Democratic Vistas," which was published in 1871. These works have been widely celebrated for their celebration of the self, nature, democracy, and individuality, and they have had a profound impact on American poetry and culture.

Walt Whitman's relationship with his family was close and supportive throughout his life. He remained close with his siblings, and he often wrote about his family in his works. For example, in "Leaves of Grass," he wrote about his mother Louisa, who he referred to as "the old mother" and "the queen." He also wrote about his father, who he referred to as "the carpenter."

Walt's siblings also had a significant impact on his life and work. His eldest brother, Andrew Jackson Whitman, was a sailor who died in 1853 at the age of 36. George Washington Whitman, Walt's second eldest brother, was a carpenter and served in the Union army during the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson Whitman, born in 1822, was a teacher and also served in the Union army. Jesse Whitman was a farmer and blacksmith, while Edward Whitman was a farmer. Walt's only sister, Hannah Louisa Whitman, was born in 1830 and was a homemaker known for her intelligence and wit.

Louisa was a close confidant and supporter throughout his life. She was a talented artist who helped to care for him in his later years, when he was suffering from a stroke and other health problems. Louisa's support and devotion to her brother were a source of strength and comfort to him, and he often wrote about her in his works.

Walt was close to his family throughout his life and they remained an important part of his legacy after his death. His brother Thomas Jefferson Whitman helped to preserve Walt's legacy by publishing a book about his life and work. Walt's sister Hannah Louisa Whitman lived to be 92 years old and was a great source of information about Walt's life and family. Today, Walt's descendants continue to carry on his legacy and to share his poetry with future generations.