Old fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are the snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled. - Jane Addams


Julia Scarbrough was a protective mother and wife whose concerns were often misconstrued.

Quotes featured on this panel were written by Robert Mackay and contemporary biographers of William Scarbrough and Godfrey Barnsley (Julia’s son-in-law). Some statements are irreverent opinions, while others are unfounded conjecture. 

Obstinate, Julia Scarbrough


Steamship Savannah, by Arnold Palmer, Ships of the Sea Collection

As the daughter of a Naval surgeon, Julia was probably familiar with the fantastic and terrifying stories about life at sea. So when her husband invested in what would become the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Julia was worried. William was not only the chief investor in the venture, but he was also making plans for his family to make the maiden voyage. Crossing an ocean under steam had never been attempted and was considered a dangerous endeavor—earning the SS Savannah the moniker, “Steam Coffin.” Julia declined the voyage, and eventually so did William. 

Festivities for Savannah’s voyage included a visit from President Monroe who resided in the Scarbrough’s new home during his stay. Julia was in New York throughout Monroe’s visit and scholars have joked that Savannah’s supreme hostess missed one of the city’s greatest celebrations because William shipped his “overbearing” wife away. The truth is less dramatic but far more poignant. Following the death of her daughter Mary, a pregnant Julia traveled to New York in November of 1818. She remained in the city for the birth and subsequent illness of her child Joseph. Apparently nothing (not even a presidential visit) would prompt her return until Joseph was recovered.  

SS Savannah, Arnold Palmer, Ships of the Sea collection

Portrait of Julia S. Barnsley, ca. 1848. Barnsley Family Papers Collection, MS 1451. Courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society

Julia Scarbrough was protective of all of her children, especially her frail daughter Julia Scarbrough Barnsley, and hated to be separated from them—even committing a social faux pas by keeping a child’s cradle in a public room. Julia gave birth to nine children, only five of which survived to adulthood. She outlived her husband and all of her children with the exception of her eldest and youngest: Charlotte Scarbrough Taylor and William Isaac Scarbrough. 

Julia Barnsley, HSF Collection