Special Valentine's Day Tribute to the Mighty Harriet Tubman!


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From the Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance

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Harriet Tubman (1822-1913): A Voting Rights Biography

I Suffered Enough For Suffrage!

View as Webpage This is a NEW 2024 Article!

"I Suffered Enough To Believe It"

"The newest member of the Geneva Political Equality Club is undoubtedly our oldest member. No one knows exactly how old, but the papers have recently printed the supposition that Harriet Tubman-the Moses of her people -is about 100 years of age. It is, however, not her age so much as her quality that makes her word concerning votes for women important. Harriet, the self-liberated slave, conductor of the underground railroad-19 trips, 300 and more passengers all safely landed on free soil-scout and spy and nurse for the Federal forces during the Rebellion, a veteran of the Civil War unpaid

and unpensioned.

"Harriet was the friend and co-worker of my grandfather, and a few days ago I went to see her at the Harriet Tubman Home for old colored people, which she has founded at Auburn. I thought it might please her and I knew it would please me to make her a life member of the Geneva Political Equality Club, so I said: 'Harriet, I remember seeing you many years ago at suffrage conventions in Rochester.' 'Yes, I belonged to Miss Susan B. Anthony's association.' Then I read to the attentive listener from the life member's

card Lincoln's words, ' ' go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens--by no means excluding women.' You, Harriet, have certainly borne your share of the national burden. I should be proud to make you a life member of our club if you really believe that women should vote.' Aunt Harriet paused a moment and then with great simplicity and earnestness said: 'I suffered enough to believe it.' I bowed my head and heart in reverence before the sister who had won her belief through suffering." (emphasis added)

- Excerpt from The Lyons Republican, August 3, 1911.

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Happy Valentine's Day! The Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance, in honor of Black History Month, are reviving the daily special series devoted to sharing the legacies and stories of the sheroes, heroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage. This series was created in 2017 and will add 13 NEW articles this year. In addition to these daily newsletters all February long, this series also incorporates daily social media posts; an interactive calendar; and, website blog posts to spread the word broadly.

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This article is written by Caitlyn Caitlyn Arnwine (formerly Caitlyn Cobb) in 2024. A full reference list is available at the end of this article, with all sources cited throughout the article.

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On February 14th, 2024, we honor Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman is most known for the Underground Railroad, but did you know she also fought for African American voting rights and Women's Suffrage?

Voting Rights and Freedom go hand in hand!

Best known as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman’s activism did not end with emancipation. Through her Underground Railroad work, Tubman became connected to a network of mid-19th century reformers who advocated for women’s rights as well as abolitionism. Even as she was conducting her rescue missions in the 1850s, she was also attending antislavery meetings, black rights conventions, and women’s suffrage meetings. With activists such as Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Martha Coffin Wright, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Ednah Dow Chaney, Frederick Douglass, Lewis Hayden, and others, she received personal and financial support to pursue her missions and exposure to ideologies of racial and gender equality. Tangible evidence of the intersection of these networks can be found at the Auburn, New York, home of Martha Wright, sister of Lucretia Mott, which is recognized in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Wright is best known as a woman’s rights advocate, one of the organizers of the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention in 1848, but she was also an Underground Railroad supporter, part of the network affiliated with William H. and Frances Seward, Gerrit Smith, and Tubman in central New York. In letters to family members in 1843, 1857, and 1860, Wright presented detailed documentation of three Underground Railroad events she participated in, including her work in providing assistance for the seven people that Tubman rescued on her last trip into Maryland in 1860. While slavery ended with the Civil War, these ideals of racial and gender equality inspired Tubman’s activism for the rest of her life. After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn. There she began another career as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist. Active in the suffrage movement since 1860, Tubman continued to appear at local and national suffrage conventions until the 1900s.” (Women’s History Month - Harriet Tubman Tour | Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2018)

Harriet Tubman had 7 core values, even while in slavery: Faith, Freedom, Family, Community, Social Justice, Self Determination, and Equality. It was escaping the racial bonds of slavery along the Eastern Shore and she then further sought to expand her sense of emancipation as a woman in her own right: voting rights was about as much a part of being free to her as escaping slavery was. Suffrage was key. Tubman knew if she advanced suffrage -One Person, One Vote- as a concept, that that was a bigger victory to have and still fight for full enfranchisement of all Americans. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

There is a lot of information about Harriet Tubman, including a highly praised 2019 movie about her life. Most articles focusing on Harriet tend to discuss her early years in slavery, her work in the Underground Railroad, her faith in God, how she was a spy during the America Civil War and led the 1st armed raid by a woman into battle along the Combahee River in South Carolina (Combahee River Ferry & Harriet Tubman Bridge (U.S. National Park Service), n.d.; Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020; Leichner, 2012) (which that bridge has now been dedicated to Harriet), how she took care of her parents and founded an elderly care home for Black people. You can read all about this in the biographical sections of her life by clicking the button below. However, she was a major voting rights advocate and this article is meant to center her in that legacy. The Transformative Justice Coalition wants to educate the public about another side of her powerful work.

Read the Historical Society's biographical sections on Harriet Tubman's life here

Known as "Moses", and often times going by an alias to escape capture, Harriet's incredible heroism, determination, faith, and strength is certainly inspiring. "The links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in Chronicling America." Click the buttons and images below to be taken to the Library of Congress' website and view articles about Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad work that were written while she was alive:

Chicago tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1864-1872, May 02, 1869, Image 5

Chicago tribune. [volume] (Chicago, Ill.) 1864-1872, May 02, 1869, Image 5, brought to you by Library of Congress, Washington, DC, and the National Digital Newspaper Program.

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The Richmond palladium. [volume] (Richmond, Ind.) 1855-1875, March 23, 1869, Image 1

The Richmond palladium. [volume] (Richmond, Ind.) 1855-1875, March 23, 1869, Image 1, brought to you by Indiana State Library, and the National Digital Newspaper Program.

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Within Tubman’s core values was another question she had to grapple with, especially within the racist movement for women’s suffrage that excluded Black people and the fight for Black male suffrage that excluded women: What battle are we willing to take up that will advance society beyond our own personal situation? This idea that freedom goes beyond my situation; I shouldn’t be forced to choose between vote for myself and vote for my people. Tubman helped people understand "we can be together, and then there are journeys I may have to take that you may not be able to join; this doesn’t separate us, but I may be advancing something else." Time and again, she went beyond the average person. This was a woman who saw freedom from all different lenses. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

For example, her emancipation was also economic freedom, and she knew becoming a land owner was part of that. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) She knew that owning the land was really important and that that gave her rights. To this day, it’s still a struggle in the lending community where single and married women are be treated differently. It’s important people understand human dignity- and Harriet understood human dignity and freedom. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024)

That’s what allowed her to bring her family to Auburn, New York and create 9 cottages where she housed African American seniors as she provided free universal healthcare to everyone at the John Brown Hall. Tubman did not see it as “you’re White so it means you can’t understand what I’m going through”. Tubman used to give fruits and vegetables to even White Auburnians (children) if they would bring a good report card. Without being able to read or write, she valued education and took good care of her body with fruits and vegetables and balanced her diet and life with walking. She understood the promise of America was greater than what it exhibited in her lifetime. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

Your freedom is more than personal freedom: it’s social, economic, and political freedom, a belief which comes from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. Tubman could neither read nor write, but she understood God, something that happens on the inside that came out in her everyday walk. In her bedroom, she had a Bible and hymnal without being able to read and write. Tubman’s faith fueled all of her work, which people weren’t comfortable with for a long time. She wanted the hymnal near her bed because she wanted those songs to be close to her. Tubman, Douglass, and Sojourner Truth all come out of liberation theology of the AME Zion Church which was also known as the “Freedom Church”. It is another reason why Tubman settled in Auburn: it had an AME Zion Church there that she regularly attended. Tubman felt Auburn had everything, most importantly the church, and also men and women who believed in women’s’ suffrage. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

In making this article, I not only researched online, but also interviewed Kate Clifford Larson Ph.D. who is a Historian, Writer, Consultant, and Brandeis WSRC Scholar 2020-22 (Alum). Kate is a New York Times Best-Selling Author. Her latest release is "Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer" (Oxford, 2021), which was named one of the Best Biographies of 2021 by Kirkus. She has also authored:

Kate is a Consulting Historian for film, print, and exhibits, including, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State and National Park; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and All-American Road, Eastern Shore, MD; and, Harriet Tubman Home and National Park, Auburn, NY.

A huge thanks goes out to Kate Clifford Larson for aiding in my research into Harriet Tubman's suffrage activities.

In addition, a great deal of this article is in thanks to The President Woodrow Wilson House’s February 20th, 2020 C-SPAN recording entitled “Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage” in which Asantewa Boakyewa interviewed Karen Hill of the Harriet Tubman House. The interview was specifically about Harriet Tubman’s suffrage work. This event was held in Washington, D.C. as part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. This video can be viewed by clicking the screenshot of Karen Hill.

When Barbara Arnwine, Founder and President of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said I should do an article on Harriet Tubman, at first I was hesitant: I knew of Harriet's great work with the Underground Railroad; but, what she had done for voting rights? Barbara informed me that she had done a lot. Upon initial quick research, I again asked "Did she do anything besides give speeches for suffrage?" Barbara was quick to reply "That's all Frederick Douglass did!"

In my interview with Kate, I repeated this story, and she agreed with Barbara, and added further context: we know of Frederick Douglass' voting rights work because he could write it down. Harriet couldn't read or write. As Larson told me, "When you write things down, you get noticed. A lot of her speeches weren't written. If it wasn't for her autobiographies written by her friend, we wouldn't know a lot of her work- even her Underground Railroad involvement."

In fact, Harriet Tubman provided Frederick Douglass the empirical data for his speeches! (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) And yet, we - including myself - know more about Frederick Douglass' suffrage activities and credit him more with suffrage work than Harriet Tubman.

The other reason Larson stated that most don't know of Harriet's suffrage work is because it gets lost because her civil war and Underground Railroad work were so profound. Just as I was ignorant at the beginning of my research in this article, Most historians have not positioned their writings regarding Harriet's voting rights work because she didn’t dedicate herself exclusively to suffrage. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

For those reasons stated above, the remainder of this article will focus on Harriet Tubman's Suffrage work.

Harriet envisioned a mosaic of America which we have yet to achieve. She knew America could be richer in fully embracing the diversity and humanity of all its people. Divisions that occurred during the women’s suffrage movement of the 20th Century can be seen as akin to the ongoing struggle for all women to be seen equally. Tubman did not believe in divisions of freedom as she believed that if you’re not free in every aspect of life, then you’re not really free: If your votes don’t count; if your votes are suppressed; if there is no equal opportunity for us to pursue our best selves, then you’re not free. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

Harriet's Voting Rights Biography

Though Harriet Tubman could not read or write, she had tremendous literacy. If we all focus on is formal literacy in the traditional sense, as education often does, we may miss it. To really understand how powerful her literacy was you have to ask the questions "How did she escape through dangerous landscape such as marshes and woods?" "Without the ability to swim, how would she know how to cross certain bodies of water and when it was safe to do so?" It is undisputed that she had great literacy about the environment. She also had literacy about people and was particularly good at discerning people. She was as knowledgeable as any astronomer and could not only read the night sky but also navigate effectively without a compass and understand the seasons. Harriet also had tremendous political literacy. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024) “Tubman worked closely with politicians, thought leaders, and intellectuals of her time – Frederick Douglass, William Henry Seward, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and more.” (Han & Rivard, n.d., para. 11) When the 15th Amendment was passed the South started instituting literacy test to prevent Black men from voting, and while she could not read or write letters, she was adamant that whether they were literate or not, all people deserved the right to vote. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024).


Harriet was still enslaved when the campaign for women's suffrage began. But she would prove invaluable to the cause. When she rescued herself from slavery, Harriet got involved in suffrage first in Philadelphia and then in Auburn, New York with several Quaker women who were already advocating for suffrage in the 1840’s and 50’s. Lucretia Mott, whose 2017 #VRABlackHistory article can be viewed here, was part of the first women’s suffrage conventions, and Tubman later said Lucretia Mott was the first White woman to ever have helped her. When Tubman became involved with Boston abolitionists, many of those men and women were involved with suffrage. In 1860, Tubman appeared at a suffrage convention in Boston. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024) A reason many may not know about her speeches she gave is that, in addition to her speeches not being written down, she also often had to go by aliases, such as Moses or Mother Moses or variations of Harriet Tubman to avoid being captured under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. “In the late 1850s, Tubman’s speeches at antislavery and women’s rights conventions gave her a platform to tell her personal stories recounting the horrors of slavery, her escape, her efforts to rescue others, and the need to fight for freedom and equal rights.” (Balkansky, 2020, para. 7)

"Harriet Garrison” in “The New England Convention,” The Weekly Anglo-African (New York, NY), August 6, 1859, p. 3.

"Harriet Tribbman” in “Grand A. S. Convention in Auburn, New York,” Anti-Slavery Bugle (Salem, Ohio), January 21, 1860, p. 2.

“Harriett Tupman” in “A Female Conductor of the Underground Railroad,” The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), June 6, 1860, p. 1 (perhaps just a misspelling).

Our Boston Letter,” The Press and Tribune (Chicago, IL), June 8, 1860, p. 2.

Other than the reasons stated earlier, there was another big reason why Harriet Tubman decided to settle in Auburn, New York: The abolitionist movement was very fervent in Auburn. Though there was still segregation, when she decided to settle in Auburn she did so because she needed to be in an environment where the question of slave or free was already asked and answered. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) Once she settled in Auburn, Harriet attended suffrage meetings during the 1860’s and 70’s. Lots of women would have meetings in their homes and Tubman would participate in those in Rochester and Auburn. She always wanted to remind everyone that she deserved the right to vote like everyone else. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024)


Seneca Falls and Auburn are in Central NY and are 20 miles from each other. The first women’s convention was raucous and not well organized. They didn’t think their fight for suffrage would take from 1849 to 1920. Some of the suffragist leaders were very racist. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and others would get booed out of halls when they talked about suffrage because there would be Black men who knew of their reputation of opposing Black male suffrage. For example, Stanton and Douglass were great friends but Stanton called Black people “sambo” and Douglass took her to task for it- yet she denied any wrongdoing. (Even so, Stanton allowed Douglass to stay at her house when he needed and he eulogized her). (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

With all the division, the leaders of the movement knew they needed a powerful speaker. Harriet was the spark of energy they needed: the right dose of activism and diplomacy and knowing for being very supportive of women. Harriet believed you didn’t let men marginalize you. Harriet was a moderating force. She was not someone who stepped into suffrage and women’s rights to make a complicated situation even more complicated. She laid out "here’s all the reasons I shouldn’t join, but here’s the reasons I must join". Harriet was able to recognize the suffragette movement wasn’t perfect, yet she still was determined to play a central role. She knew clearly Black women were being marginalized, but she determined she was not going to let her Black voice be marginalized; she was speaking not only for herself but for her sisters. She made the conscious choice of being a Black woman in a movement that was really racist especially with the Stanton wing that didn’t support Black men’s right to vote. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

It should be noted that even Douglass, whom Harriet knew, likewise made decisions in an imperfect movement in the fight to attain the right to vote. He was even considered by some to have "betrayed" women in his own fight for suffrage in supporting Black men obtaining the right to vote first. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024)

There were other women of color who were marginalized and wanted to be a part of women’s suffrage movement. Tubman stood her ground. Her reply when debating the Fugitive Slave Act of “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” comes to mind. As small in stature she was, she was the largest one in the room. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) Harriet even appeared on stage with Ida B. Wells, who accorded Tubman great respect and referred to her as “Mother Tubman”. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024) When Harriet spoke, everyone listened intently.


“On Friday, June 1, 1860, she spoke at the 'Woman's Rights Meeting' held at the Melodeon. Again concealing her identity in a public gathering, she assumed the name, 'Moses,' and shared the stage with other reformers including Caroline Dall, Caroline Severance, and William Lloyd Garrison. The Liberator reported ‘A colored woman of the name of Moses, who herself a fugitive, has eight times returned to the slave States for the purpose of rescuing others from bondage, and who has met with extraordinary success in her efforts, was then introduced. She told the story of her adventures in a modest but quaint and amusing style, which won much applause.’” (Harriet Tubman’s Boston, n.d.-a)

Harriet not only provided the data for Douglass’ speeches, but served as an advisor to Stanton, Mott, and Anthony. (Tucker, 2023). Harriet was very close with Susan B. Anthony. Susan sheltered Tubman, her parents, and a group of enslaved people she brought when Tubman stopped at Anthony’s house and brought them through around 1861. Anthony writes about it to her daughters. Anthony also went into the South and attended meetings with Black women (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024)

“In the summer of 1864, [Tubman] received a furlough from the Army to return north. She came to Boston in early August to visit with her abolitionist friends. While [there], she stayed at the home of Dr. John S. Rock, one of the leading activists in the African American community. During this visit she first met Sojourner Truth, a fellow abolitionist and advocate for African American and women's rights. The two discussed the merits of President Lincoln. Truth supported Lincoln and had even campaigned for him. Tubman, on the other hand, remained skeptical. Given her service in the war, she deeply resented Lincoln's policy of paying Black soldiers less than their White counterparts. She later said: ‘You see, we colored people didn't understand then that he was our friend. All we knew was that the first colored troops sent South from Massachusetts only got seven dollars a month, while the white got fifteen. We didn't like that...Yes, I'm sorry now I didn't see Mr. Lincoln and thank him.’” (footnotes omitted) (Harriet Tubman’s Boston, n.d.-b, paras. 3–5)

"Harriet Tubman received national recognition for her service during the Civil War, but the US government never compensated her. After the passage of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act of 1890, she began receiving a pension only because she was the widow of a black Union soldier. It is a lasting shame that such an incredible woman was forced to sell baked goods to survive while she put her life on the line for the cause." (Liu, 2021, para. 6)

“In 1886, Tubman's friend Sarah H. Bradford wrote and published an extended second edition of her biography. Bradford hoped that the sale of this edition would raise money to help alleviate Tubman's chronic financial distress. Tubman came to Boston in the fall to sit for a portrait to sell with the new edition of her biography…The Boston-based Woman's Journal, the most widely recognized suffrage journal in the United States, promoted this new edition of Tubman's biography: ‘This second edition is printed to relieve her from penury and want. The example of this poor slave-woman shows that Judith and Joan of Arc have their parallels among us. The race of heroic women still lives in our midst.’”(footnotes omitted) (Harriet Tubman’s Boston, n.d.-c)

One of the lessons of her legacy, thought at many times, Tubman’s role in the beginnings of African American women’s club movement. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) “In the 1880s, black reformers began organizing their own groups." (Women’s History Month - Harriet Tubman Tour | Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2018)

"[The NACW] became the largest federation of local black women’s clubs…Suffragist Mary Church Terrell became the first president of the NACW. Suffrage was an important goal for black female reformers. Unlike predominantly white suffrage organizations, however, the NACW advocated for a wide range of reforms to improve life for African Americans. The NACW’s motto was 'Lifting as We Climb.' They advocated for women’s rights as well as to “uplift” and improve the status of African Americans. For example, black men officially had won the right to vote in 1870. Since then, impossible literacy tests, high poll taxes, and grandfather clauses prevented many of them from casting their ballots. NACW suffragists wanted the vote for women and to ensure that black men could vote too. Racism persisted even in the most socially progressive movements of the era. The National American Woman Suffrage Association, the dominant white suffrage organization, held conventions that excluded black women. Black women were forced to march separately in suffrage parades. Furthermore, the History of Woman Suffrage volumes by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the 1880s largely overlooked the contributions of black suffragists in favor of a history that featured white suffragists. The significance of black women in the movement was overlooked in the first suffrage histories, and is often overlooked today.” (National Association of Colored Women, 2016).

Read below about how the 1865 Convention of the NACW came to be.

"Shall We Have a Convention...?"

A proposal for African American clubwomen to convene arose in the first issue of Boston's The Woman's Era in 1894. As the first newspaper founded and edited by Black women, this monthly publication served as a means of communication for Black clubwomen across the country at a time when they found themselves largely excluded from White women's politics. In the pages of The Woman's Era, Black clubwomen, including Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Florida Ruffin Ridley, shaped the representation of Black women by publishing their own articles on topics ranging from fiction, politics, social issues, domestic advice, and club updates

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“In the 1890s, Tubman made several visits to Boston to see family and friends and continue her fundraising efforts. In spring of 1897, she came to the city for several months, which one local newspaper wrongly predicted 'will probably be her farewell visit to Boston.' Tubman stayed at the home of activist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin on Charles Street at the foot of Beacon Hill. She joined with Ruffin and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper to address a gathering of the Woman's Era Club at the Charles Street A.M.E. Church, a center of Black religious life and activism. During this extended visit, Tubman also attended many private receptions and public gatherings. For example, in April, she attended a reunion at People's Temple of ‘the remaining few of the New England abolitionists, with their children and grandchildren, for the purpose of renewing old memories and incidents of the stirring period 30 years before the war.’ The Woman's Journal hosted a reception in her honor presided over by her long-time friend Ednah D. Cheney. She also attended the dedication of the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial, went to a reception at the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and held forth at small gatherings in private homes. The Boston Daily Advertiser wrote that Tubman: ‘has been the center of small parties that eagerly listened to the dramatic stories of slavery and war days...Although she is now a feeble old woman, you have but to speak of the old days and her face lightens up and her eyes sparkle. If she is led to talk her voice grows strong and emphatic with emotion...it is quite like listening to a brave old warrior.’ Arianna C. Sparrow, who hosted one of these engagements at her home on Phillips Street, commented on Tubman’s humanitarianism and generosity. ‘No one can give her anything,’ she said, ‘for everything she has she gives away...She is as generous as the sunshine.’ (Harriet Tubman’s Boston, n.d.-d)

"In 1896, Tubman spoke and sang at a convention where the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was founded.” (Women’s History Month - Harriet Tubman Tour | Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2018)

See below for references contained in the historical records of the Conventions of 1895-96 of the Colored Women of America. All page numbers correspond to pdf page number so it's easier for you to find (the pdf page number is different than the number shown at the bottom of the page: for example, pdf page 41 is page 39 in the records).

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 38)

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 48)

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 41)

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 56)

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 43)

(Historical Records Conventions-1895-96.Pdf, n.d., p. 59)

Susan B. Anthony held a lot of reverence for Harriet. “The 15 lines, scrawled inside an aged biography on the Library’s shelves, casually record a singular moment in suffrage history: the chance meeting of two larger-than-life women at the dawn of a new century, as they looked back on past struggles and ahead to the possibilities of the next generation. [It should be noted that though this encounter may have been a chance meeting, it wasn't their first time meeting.] In 1903, Susan B. Anthony, pioneer of the American woman’s suffrage movement, donated her personal library to the Library of Congress. Anthony, helped by her sister Mary and suffragist Ida Husted Harper, prepared the books for their journey from Anthony’s home in Rochester, New York, to the nation’s capital. During this process, Anthony annotated many of the volumes, often including personal remembrances and commentary. One noteworthy annotation recalls the day Anthony unexpectedly met another figure that looms large in U.S. history: abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman…In 1869, she had been the subject of a biography, ‘Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman,’ based on author Sarah Bradford’s interviews with her the year before. Anthony owned a copy of the second edition, retitled 'Harriet, the Moses of her People,' and before sending the book to the Library inscribed it with a personal memory of meeting Tubman at a gathering in 1903: ‘This most wonderful woman — Harriet Tubman — is still alive. I saw her but the other day at the beautiful home of Eliza Wright Osborne, the daughter of Martha C. Wright, in company with Elizabeth Smith Miller, the only daughter of Gerrit Smith, Miss Emily Howland, Rev. Anna H. Shaw and Mrs. Ella Wright Garrison, the daughter of Martha C. Wright and the wife of Wm. Lloyd Garrison Jr. All of us were visiting at Mrs. Osbornes, a real love feast of the few that are left, and here came Harriet Tubman!’ The recollection, short and matter of fact, nevertheless reveals the thrill Anthony felt: She underlined Tubman’s name each time and finished it off with an exclamation point. Tubman was friendly with prominent suffragists and helped inform their understanding of the particular struggles Black women faced in the fight for suffrage and equality. Anthony came from a family of staunch abolitionists and met and befriended Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and others throughout her life. While these two women fought parallel, though separate, battles, their paths occasionally did cross. Anthony introduced Tubman at the 1904 meeting of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association in New York. Perhaps it was at the chance meeting at the Osborne house that Anthony asked Tubman to participate in the association’s meeting the following year.” (Tucker, 2023)

Harriet's Ongoing Emancipation (Legacy)

Harriet’s emancipation continues today. We see it in her morals. We see it in the unlikely amazing friendships that are formed because of her still to this day that surpass race, such as the friendship between Karen Hill and Kate Clifford Larson. Though they went to the same women’s college, Hill and Larson weren’t friends until their work on Tubman brought them together and now they speak daily. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) Larson wrote the seminal work on Tubman, as a lot of newspaper articles and children’s books of the day were exaggerated and filled with myths. Larson has written the incredible well-documented biography “Bound for the Promised Land” and Karen Hill, a member of AME Zion Church, is a wonderful advocate for Harriet’s legacy, including that of voting rights, and in preserving history as she runs the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn. Karen, when asked what historical sites can do, calls on people who operate a historic site to make sure it’s always lively and that it “breathes”. She says the site needs to be alive: if it’s looking at Wilson calling suffrage one of the greatest accomplishments, then that is something interesting thar needs to be highlighted. That said, Karen also believes historical sites must be truthful and those who operate them should be willing to open themselves up for examination. Just as Harriet made such collaborative efforts, even with complicated friendships, Karen Hill also calls on historical sites to collaborate with other parks. And even more than just advice for historical sites, Karen calls on everyone to make a national day of service that will honor Tubman and her servant leadership. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)


“In addition to speaking on the national stage, Tubman also provided a home for friends and family. Her humanitarian work triumphed with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, located on land abutting her home and property in Auburn. These buildings are part of the newly created Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn https://www.nps.gov/hart/index.htm. Many of the sites associated with Tubman’s Underground Railroad activities can be visited along the Harriet Tubman Byway in Maryland: http://harriettubmanbyway.org/. Sites in Auburn, such as the Wright House, Seward House, Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged relate to Tubman’s later activist years.” (Women’s History Month - Harriet Tubman Tour | Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2018, paras. 5–6)

“In 2016 it was announced that, in recognition of her significant work, Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the US $20 bill. Although first planned for distribution in 2020, in honor of the centennial of passage of the 19th amendment to the constitution, release of the new $20 bills has been delayed until 2028. We’re impatiently waiting for recognition of this passionate supporter of abolition, women’s suffrage, and gender equality.” (Harriet Tubman, 2020) Once that promise is realized, her focus on financial freedom will come full circle in society. Harriet is an example to all the communities that she was literate in. The elder care community could lift her up as she took care of her parents, even though her mother was despondent when she came to Auburn. Harriet just knew that she had to take the lead and bring my parents up and work out the situation together with them. The health community and health care industry should use Harriet as an example: Harriet tended to gardens and was very aware of what she ate, despite having no education in how to do so. This was a woman who was still traveling well into her 80’s. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020) Harriet had epilepsy since she was 12, a testament to how a disability does not stop you from reaching great heights. 

Harriet Tubman's Boston: 1890s (U.S. National Park Service)

Sometime in the late 1890s, Tubman underwent major surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. As an enslaved child, she endured a severe head injury when an overseer hurled a lead weight at her in anger. Stemming from that injury, Tubman continuously suffered from debilitating seizures and other painful conditions.

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When writing this article, I began to not feel so special in my life anymore when compared to the incredible life of the one who suffered enough to believe. However, that is another way Harriet’s legacy lives on as she continues to free our minds. “Tubman shared her experiences of suffering in the war and railroad movement, in order to prove that women are equal to men. By all accounts, she was a dynamic speaker and storyteller. Here is one of her famous quotes: ‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’ (Harriet Tubman, 2020) We teach children what not to do but don’t teach enough of how everyone is important and Harriet created the space for us to begin to start the conversation (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020). Larson echoed how Harriet felt everyone had something special. It’s a reason she fought so hard.

“She believed in the importance of equal rights and fought for them throughout her life. Her legacy has helped to inspire and empower generations of women and civil rights activists. Symbol of courage and determination: Harriet Tubman’s life story is a powerful example of courage, determination, and resilience in the face of adversity. Her legacy continues to inspire people today to stand up for what is right, fight for justice, and never give up in the face of challenges.” (Richardson, 2023, paras. 13–14)

Harriet's spirit is still embracing and teaching everyone. “Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (NHP), in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), [held] a naturalization ceremony on the grounds of the National Park Service’s legislative partner, Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., at 180 South Street on August 8, 2019. During the ceremony, Federal Judge Theresa Dancks [swore] in 25 new citizens at the historic home where Harriet Tubman lived free for 50 years and where she continued her fight for human rights and dignity. Karen Hill, President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., [was] particularly moved about the upcoming ceremony stating, ‘Those taking their citizenship oath will take their first breath as United States citizens standing on the very ground Harriet Tubman spent her free years, a gift from Harriet Tubman as they go forth as our nation’s newest citizens.’ The naturalization ceremony [was] an opportunity to recognize the rights, responsibilities, and importance of citizenship. New citizens, their families, friends, and the public [were] invited to share in the long tradition of welcoming our new citizens at this memorable event.” (Naturalization Ceremony at Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Welcomes New Citizens to the United States - Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service), 2019)

Harriet's legacy is also still bringing home the important distinctions of different literacies. Tubman couldn’t read or write, but the press followed her. Understanding her servant leadership, even without traditional literacy not only makes us more appreciative of Harriet’s work and more able to understand her suffrage work; but, if this history is lost, it begins to negatively affect even our children. Larson shared a story with me of when she went to speak on Harriet Tubman to a third-grade class, and a little girl came up to her, gushing about how she loved Harriet and was so inspiring to the girl because she had dyslexia, and even though Harriet Tubman couldn’t read or write, she was still successful. (K. C. Larson, personal communication, February 5, 2024) With various reports in 2024 of Gen Alpha children not being at adequate reading grade levels relative to their age, this is an especially important lesson.

The drum in African culture beats in a way that informs next steps and invigorates and enlivens. Sojourner truth picked up Harriet’s mantle, and that was not an accident. The New York Times covered her death as a major story and Harriet intentionally left women of AME Zion church in charge of her Home for the Aging because she understood she needed to provide agency for women (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020), even and probably especially in her death. Harriet died on March 10th, 1913, exactly one week after the infamous women’s’ suffrage parade in Washington, DC. The organizers for the parade, among whom was Alice Paul, wanted a bit of diversity- a sprinkling, not complete. They told Ida b Wells and the Delta’s they’d be at the back and didn’t see anything wrong with that. With racial tensions high, they thought the only way to make their parade successful was to have Black women in the back rather than front and center. The Delta’s and Wells said certainly not and positioned themselves in the front of the parade, regardless of the organizers' concerns about the optics. The newspapers chronicled this amazing event that intentionally was scheduled right before Woodrow’s inauguration. Perhaps even though the suffragists of Woodrow’s presidency were more radical than Tubman, if not for Tubman, they wouldn’t be where they are without her “beating the drum”. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)

Luckily, in 2024, we don’t need to call them “parades” anymore to be permitted to march: we can now outright declare it a protest. During the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., Harriet’s image was displayed on the front of the Treasury Department. It was such a gathering of diversity and inclusion and was intergenerational, men and women. And as racial divisions were present in at that march and continue to be an issue in the feminism movement, we need a Harriet for this moment to say we are fighting for something larger than ourselves; we are fighting for what democracy in its truer form ought to look like: we as women ought to be free to express ourselves in every political facet in full participation. We all share in the full embrace of the 19th Amendment, recognizing its intersectional failure of the Movement at that time as Black, Latina, and Native American women were excluded. We should definitely recognize now that if they in the past and we in the present included everyone we would get to our freedoms sooner. Karen Hill believes we haven’t had the Harriet moment – yet. (Harriet Tubman and Women’s Suffrage | C-SPAN.Org, 2020)


Currently, as the issues of border control and illegal immigration supersedes abortion rights as the number one issue in America in February 2024, women’s rights are still struggling to be prioritized. Women are still underrepresented in every aspect of governance in federal and state legislatures in the USA. Harriet's struggle is not done, but her faith would tell us that with hard work, unity, and determination, we will succeed in creating a truly inclusive, just, and multiracial democracy. When people come against women’s rights, and ask us if we truly believe we ought to have reproductive justice, equal pay, and the full promise and protections of the Voting Rights Act; when they ask if we believe we should not be discriminated against on the basis of our hair, disability, formal literacy level, age, race, ethnicity, housing and financial situation, gender, and sexuality- we can have our Harriet moment when we reply: “I suffered enough to believe it.”

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