Mitch Gould is the leading authority on Walt Whitman's mysterious connection to Quakerism, and coined a term to describe this difficult problem — which occupied the heart of Whitman scholarship for a century: “Walt Whitman's Quaker Paradox.” Working outside the establishment scholarship community continuously for 15 years, he dedicated his resources to reconciling the 19th century's most eloquent voice for the right to sexual self-determination with a society that had famously retreated from the immoral influence of “the world's people” behind a “fence” of prohibitions against music, art, dancing, theater, and marriage outside the faith.
In 2003, he established LeavesOfGrass.Org to coordinate activities for the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass, openly publishing a continuous stream of historical findings made possible by the digitalization of historic books and journals. A partial review of his findings was published in the peer-reviewed journal Quaker History in 2007. He has also published in Walt Whitman: an Encyclopedia; the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide; The Friend (in England); and Great Events from History, edited by Lillian Faderman and Yolanda Retter.
Mitch shares with George Takei a claim to tiny Rohwer, Arkansas as a boyhood hometown.Born in 1955, he was raised there about 10 years after the Rohwer War Relocation Center was closed. His family has become the go-to resource for Japanese-Americans on a pilgrimage to this historic site; and Mitch has taken an interest in the Japanese version of Quakerism known as Mukyokai, because of its occasional historic references to Walt Whitman and its role in informing the civil disobedience of Quaker Gordon Hirabayashi.
It was while obtaining masters degrees in physics and anatomy from Georgia Tech and Emory in the 1970s and 1980s, that Mitch found himself being drawn to the world of the 19th century. Working as a science journalist, he published in such venues as Physics Today, Popular Science, Men's Fitness, and Runner's World. He wrote technical reports for the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and designed documentation for Windows and Unix applications at Brock Control Systems, Lotus Development Corporation, NCR's Distributed Multimedia Technology lab, Iterated Systems, and A.D.A.M. Software.
His first book, Mastering Animator (Sybex, 1990), became one of the most popular guides to Autodesk Animator. His second book, co-authored with Van Thurston, Windows 95 Multimedia Programming (Henry Holt, 1995), eventually gave way to involvement with the web's Document Object Model, and earned him a stint with SAP Labs in Silicon Valley.
In 1997, he moved to Forest Grove, Oregon. There he met camerado Roger Moss; they have been together ever since. During their seven years there, they produced three short films about the town, including Tuality Giants, an historical documentary about the introduction of the giant sequoia to Oregon.
As the tech boom burst, and the nation's mood became thirsty for war, Roger and Mitch retreated to the greater sanity of Portland. There he was able to attend Friends Meeting again, and he became involved in many of its social testimonies beyond Equality. He developed an hour-long one-man play based upon “Song of Myself,” “I Call to Mankind,” which drew standing-room only crowds. He served on the steering committee of the Community of Welcoming Congregations, and was an organizer of a meeting of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns dedicated to prominent gay figures in Quaker history.
Mitch's breakthrough as a working artist was to place 400 colorful posters based upon quotes from Susan B Anthony, George Fox, and Ghandi with the Quaker bookstore in Philadelphia. His work has also found a place in fine-arts venues, and some of his early Whitman designs were sold in Mark Wooley's fine-arts gallery. Over the years, he has left a designer's stamp on many progressive causes: The Friends of Historic Forest Grove, The University Park Neighborhood Association, The Community of Welcoming Congregations, Outloud, Mayor Sam Adams, Jefferson Smith for Mayor, The Democrats' Celsi Dinner, Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse Renovation, and such causes as peace, global warming, and human rights.
His earliest forays into responding to Whitman artist-to-artist can actually be found as examples in Windows 95 Multimedia Programming. Just before he moved to Portland, iClone, a revolutionary character-animation program appeared. This gave him the encouragement to realize an old dream of animating Whitman in one of his own poems. His current 3D character design for Walt Whitman is the result of about eight years of research into character stylization on the one hand and the acquisition of many software skills on the other.
From the earliest days of his engagement with Whitman's Quaker Paradox, it was apparent to Mitch that Quaker acceptance of Whitman's manly love was related to their acceptance of Susan B. Anthony's passion for women, as well as their tolerance of the notoriously bad behavior of their commercial partners, the common sailors. Over the years, other scholars have independently reported similar anomalies which suggest a unique historical link between Quaker culture and same-sex love. In 2011, Mitch established the Quaker History Project at the LGBT Religious Archives Network to collate and interpret this history. Its first task is to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Towards a Quaker View of Sex in 2013.
Mitch lives in an old home overlooking Columbia Park, totally transformed by Roger Moss's craftsmanship. They are owned by a handsome retriever named Gus.
(This biographical statement provided by Mitchell Gould.)
Biography Date: July, 2012