What was she like?

Mrs. Whitman was a large, stately, fair skinned woman, with blue eyes and light, auburn, almost golden hair. Her manners were at once dignified and gracious. She was, both by nature and education, a lady, and had a lady’s appreciation of all that was courageous and refined; yet not without an element of romance and heroism in her disposition strong enough to have impelled her to undertake a missionary’s life in the wilderness. (“Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon”, Clifford M Drury, Volume I, page 207, quoting “Four Years in the Rockies” by Isaac P. Rose.)

More is imagined than is known about her appearance. She was said to be of medium height, about five feet, five inches, and somewhat “fleshy.” She had fair skin, gray-blue eyes, and thick, tawny hair, which she parted in the middle and wore in a tight bun at the back of her neck. On her wedding day, she clipped a lock of her hair and gave it to one of her friends; it eventually ended up in a display case at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Her eyes often troubled her; she needed glasses for reading and sewing. She had erect posture and usually dressed severely, in high necked, long sleeved, full skirted dresses. She was widely admired for the quality of her voice, a clear strong soprano, which she used to great effect in church services. “She was not a beauty,” wrote Rev. Joel Wakeman, “and yet, when engaged in singing or conversation there was something in her appearance very attractive” (Prattsburg News, February 3, 1898).

The [adopted] Sager girls remembered Narcissa as a loving but firm disciplinarian. They also told of Narcissa’s love of nature, the outings and picnics where they would look at various plants and flowers. She had a sense of humor and a beautiful soprano singing voice. The Sagers as well as many others remember these qualities of Narcissa Whitman. (http://www.nps.gov/whmi/learn/historyculture/narcissa-biography.htm)

She was a large, well-formed woman, fair complexioned, with beautiful auburn hair, nose rather large, and large gray eyes. She had on a dark calico dress and gingham sunbonnet. We thought as we shyly looked at her that she was the prettiest woman we had ever seen. (http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/sager1.htm)

Mrs. Whitman was particularly adapted to raising children, having the art of uniting instruction and pleasure. She was a fine singer. I have never known any one who excelled her in this respect. She soon commenced teaching us vocal music. Refined and accomplished herself, she exercised over our rude natures that influence that refines and beautifies a home. (http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/sager1.htm)