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Burgess Collection

Biography of Sarah Julia Burgess

Sarah Julia Burgess, the youngest child of Chalon and Emma Burgess, was born in Panama, New York in 1870. Two siblings, Edward Sandford Burgess (1855-1928) and Theodore Chalon Burgess (1859-1925), survived childhood while three others died young. The legacies of her father and older brothers, all of whom were important community figures and successful educators, exercised a profound influence on the course of Julia's life as a student and instructor.

Julia graduated from Wellesley in 1894 and spent time teaching in various western New York state public schools. She taught in Westfield, Tonawanda and Silver Creek between 1895 and 1905, and she eventually returned to college to earn her A.M. at Radcliffe in 1901.

Julia never married, though she seems to have had several persistent suitors over the years. In addition to teaching, much of her early adulthood was dedicated to caring for her aging parents. After the death of her mother in 1907 (her father had died in 1903), Julia accepted an assistant professorship in English at the University of Oregon where she taught until her retirement in 1941. The transcontinental move severed many of her lifelong social connections in New York, but she did manage to maintain some of her former ties through prolific correspondence until her death in 1942.

Portrait of Julia BurgessJulia Burgess's life was not merely an attempt at mimicry of her successful siblings and father. She was deeply interested in her chosen field of English. She left a legacy of poetry and journalism in her private papers and public articles. In addition, she seems to have been an outspoken supporter of women's suffrage and temperance during the early part of the twentieth century. Julia was also an avid traveler, returning east almost annually to visit relatives and friends in Illinois, New York and New England, and making trips to Alaska, the Middle East and several trips to Europe between 1910-30. Furthermore, Julia enjoyed an active private and public life during her time in Oregon. She made several investments in land and timber claims around Eugene, Oregon up until about 1930. She was also active in University of Oregon Hellenic organizations and Eugene social Clubs.

Miss Burgess produced two important manuscripts during her lifetime. She privately published a memorial to her brother Edward Sandford Burgess in 1932. She also prepared an unpublished catalogue of the books and manuscripts that she inherited from her brother Edward. The catalogue seems to have been a labor of love for Julia. She intended it as an advertisement of the contents of the collection to scholars and lay readers, but bibliographic problems and Julia's death combined to stall the project. As noted on the front page of this website, at the time Julia inherited the collection of books and manuscripts from her brother, she was a professor of English at the University of Oregon and decided to partly donate and partly sell the collection to the University of Oregon Libraries. During this same period (1937-1941), Julia proved to be an astute collector herself, purchasing rare books and manuscripts from dealers in the United States and Europe. She generously added these works to the Burgess Collection at the University of Oregon before her death in 1942.

At her death, she was the only surviving member of her immediate family. Thus, her estate became the final depository for many of her family's possessions and papers. All of these items are included in the Julia Burgess Papers housed in the Special Collections and Archives, University of Oregon Libraries.


Julia Burgess Papers. Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. [Coll. 209, 9 boxes and 9 separate volumes].

Last revision: 10/30/06 by N. Helmer
Created by Ian Rush for Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries
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