Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Whittier, John Greenleaf

John Greenleaf Whittier, the New England poet, was a Quaker member of the Board of Trustees from 1869 to 1892. In the year after his appointment, on June 29, 1870, he favored the guests at the president’s levee with a poem on Roger Williams, which suggested his spiritual presence on the occasion of the day:

Is’t fancy that he watches still
His Providence Plantations?
That still the careful Founder takes
A part in these occasions?

Methinks I see that reverend form,
Which all of us so well know:
He rises up to speak; he jogs
The presidential elbow.
Whittier was the champion of admission to women to Brown. He wrote to a Providence woman in 1881, “I shall be glad to do all in my power to open the doors of Brown University to women.” He also wrote to another Quaker trustee, Richard Atwater, “I hope the time is not far distant when Brown University will be open to women. The traditions of the noble old institution are all in favor of broad liberality and equality of rights and privileges. ... Brown University cannot afford to hesitate much longer in a matter, like this, of simple justice.”