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COLLECTION Identifier: A/W184

Autobiography of Sarah Ann Walker, 1925


Account of Sarah Ann Walker's early life, culminating in her journey from Rhode Island to California in 1861 to join her husband. Description of her father's experiences mining for gold in California are also included.


  • 1925

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the autobiography of Sarah Ann Walker as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1 folder

The collection contains a 9-page typed account of Sarah Ann Walker's early life; John Burgess's experiences during his trips to California; and Walker's description of her own trip there via steam ship and train in 1861. The account was compiled and revised by Walker's grandson's wife, Emma S. Davis, in 1925.


Sarah Ann Walker, the oldest child of John Montgomery and Lydia Butterworth Backer Burgess, was born on November 18, 1837, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Her father was a cotton manufacturer. She had three siblings, one of whom died in infancy. In 1849, her father joined the California Gold Rush; during his absence the family had little money and Walker left school to look after her brother and sister while their mother took what work she could find. John Burgess returned in 1951 and the family relocated to a farm in Seekonk, Rhode Island. Burgess made two more trips to California to continue prospecting and mining for gold, while his family remained on the farm. In 1860, Walker married George Halsey Walker and settled in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where George Walker worked for his uncle, who had a soap factory. In 1861, George Walker joined members of his family in California; Walker returned to her family farm, with the intention of joining her husband as soon as possible after the birth of their first child. Her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and she remained on the farm with her mother for almost a year before traveling to California. After reuniting with her husband in California, she began working in a hotel as a cook and housekeeper for miners.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 954

The Autobiography of Sarah Ann Walker was given to the Schlesinger Library by Emma S. Davis in 1966.

Processing Information

Updated and additional description added: December 2020

By: Susan Earle

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Radcliffe College Class of 1955 Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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