Sarah Julia Highwarden


Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Sarah Julia Highwarden, 1865-1940

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Dressmaker, suffragist

Sarah Julia Butler was born in 1861 in Winchester, Virginia, the second of eight children of John and Martha Coleman Butler. The family moved to Maryland after 1865 and then to California sometime after 1875, and was recorded as living in Oakland in 1880. John Butler was a porter and died sometime before 1900 when Martha, a widow, headed a household that included three of her children and a cousin. Sarah Butler was first recorded in Oakland city directories as a seamstress in 1879 and a dressmaker in 1884. By 1895 she was listed as Julia Highwarden, dressmaker. In 1900 she was living in San Francisco and continuing as a dressmaker. She was recorded as married, but lived alone in a one-person household on 407 O'Fallon Street.

Sarah Julia had moved back to Oakland by 1905, when she worked as a dressmaker and placed an ad for a "first class dressmaker" in the Help Wanted section of the Oakland Tribune. A renter, she lived alone and headed her own household and was recorded as divorced in 1920. In 1909 she served on the board of directors of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People. In 1921 she organized a benefit dinner for the Colored Children's Home in Oakland.

Julia Highwarden was active in Republican party affairs. In 1914 she called together a meeting that led to the founding of the Colored Women's Republican Club in Oakland. She served as chairman of the Club's executive committee and as second vice-president.

The 1930 census found Sarah Highwarden living in the Fairmont Hospital in Eden in Alameda County, about fifteen miles from Oakland. Sarah Julia's death was recorded in January 1940 in Alameda County.


Federal Manuscript Censuses for Oakland, 1880-1930, entries for John and Martha Butler, Julia Highwarden. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Oakland City Directories, entries for Miss Sarah Butler and Mrs. Julia Highwarden, 1879-1923. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Delilah L. Beasley, "Activities Among Negroes," Oakland Tribune, 23 May 1926, p. 1.

________, The Negro Trail Blazers of California (Los Angeles: n.p., 1919).

"Women's Suffrage in California," in Wikipedia, accessed online at in California.

Untitled, Oakland Tribune, 11 July 1914, p. 5.

"Wanted—First class dressmaker," Oakland Tribune, 15 April 1905, p. 2.

"Mrs. Williams Supported," San Francisco Examiner, 9 August 1914, p. 2.

"Benefit Planned for Needy Colored Babies," Oakland Tribune, 9 Feb. 1921, p. 4.


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