Women and Adversity: Harriet Tubman

Famous “Conductor” on Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad, that complex system of safe houses to the north. Believing she was to be sold, she escaped slavery in 1849 and came to Philadelphia via the Underground Railroad, leaving her husband and family in Maryland.

As a slave she had endured beatings and whippings, which left her with permanent physical injuries, so she was determined to help other slaves escape.

Born Araminta Ross around 1820 in Dorchester County, MD to enslaved parents, who nicknamed her “Minty,” she changed her name to Harriet, her mother’s name, after she escaped. In 1850 she returned to Baltimore to help her sister and two children come north and continued her mission through the Civil War. Her husband chose to stay in Maryland and took a new wife.

Dubbed the “Moses of her people,” she carried a gun and threatened fugitives who wanted to return to their slave owners with death if they decided to turn back. She helped her parents escape in 1857 and in 1858 she bought a farm near Auburn, NY from Senator William Seward. She brought her parents to this farm. She also helped more than 300 fugitive slaves enter Canada.

During the Civil War from 1862-1865 she was a scout, spy, nurse and laundress for Union forces. She became so famous that a $40,000 reward was on her head. When the war ended, she took in orphans and the elderly at her Auburn home.

She was illiterate her entire life, but used ingenuity, determination and courage to free slaves. In 1869 she married Nelson Davis, a Civil War veteran, and in 1874 they adopted a baby girl.

In 2016 the U.S. Treasury Department announced she would be on the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who also removed native- Americans from their land. However, seeing her on the $20 bill isn’t definite and may not take place for at least another decade.

The 105th anniversary of her death is Saturday. She died of pneumonia March 10, 1913 in Auburn, NY.

 More information about Harriet Tubman:





Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to, and to learn more.

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