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Women’s Rights

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Women’s Rights

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Ross was born into slavery in 1819 or 1820, in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was raised under harsh conditions, and subjected to whippings even as a small child. At the age of 12 she was seriously injured by a blow to the head, inflicted by a white overseer for refusing to assist in tying up a man who had attempted to escape.

At 25, she married John Tubman, a free African American. Five years later, fearing she would be sold to the South, she made her escape. Tubman was given a piece of paper by a white neighbor with two names, and told how to find the first house on her path to freedom. At the first house she was put into a wagon, covered with a sack, and driven to her next destination. Following the route to Pennsylvania, she initially settled in Philadelphia, where she met William Still, the Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad (UGRR). With the assistance of Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, she learned about the working of the UGRR. In 1851 she began relocating members of her family to St. Catherine’s, (Ontario Canada) where she made her base of operations until1857. She worked at various activities to save to be able to finance her activities as a Conductor on the UGRR.

After freeing herself from slavery, she returned to Maryland to rescue other members of her family. Tubman believed to have conducted approximately 300 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her journey reveal her spiritual nature and a determination to protect her fellow men and those who aided them. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts and threatened to shoot anyone who wanted to turn back. She was their “Moses” because of her heroism. Harriet was a woman of no pretensions but more a specimen of humanity. She was a courageous, perceptive, and not influenced by self interest. She made successful visits to Maryland on the Underground Rail Road and would be absent for weeks at a time, running daily risks while making preparations for herself and her passengers but she never gave in to personal fear. The idea of being captured by slave-hunters or slave-holders seemed to never enter her mind she was much more watchful with regards to those she was piloting. Half of her time, she had the appearance of one asleep, and would actually sit down and fall asleep. She would never let anyone from her party whimper once about “giving out and going back”, however wearied they might be by the hard travel day and night. She has a very short and pointed rule or law of her own, which implied death to any who talked of giving out and going back. In an emergency she would give all to understand that times were very critical and therefore no foolishness would be indulged in on the road. Those who were weak-kneed and faint-hearted were encouraged by Harriet’s blunt and positive manner and threat of extreme measures, there could be no doubt. She once said “They had to go through or die”. So when she said to them that “a live runaway could do great harm by going back, but that a dead one could tell no secrets,” she was sure to have obedience. Therefore none had to die as traitors on the �middle passage.’ It was obvious however that her success in going to Maryland as she did was a result of her adventurous spirit and disregard of consequences. Of course Harriet was supreme, and her followers generally had full faith in her, and would back up any word she might utter.

Quakers and other Abolitionists settled at Auburn which was also the home of US Senator and former New York State Governor William H. Seward. In the mid- 1850’s Tubman met Seward and his Wife Frances who provided a home for Tubman’s favorite niece, Margaret, after Tubman helped her to escape from Maryland. In 1857 the Seward’s provided a home for Tubman, to which she relocated her parents for St. Catharine. This home was later sold to her for a small sum and became her base of operations when she was not on the road aiding fugitives from slavery and speaking in support of the case. She was closely associated with Abolitionist John brown and other Upstate abolitionists. She worked closely with Brown and reportedly missed the raid on Harper’s Ferry only because of illness.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Tubman served as a soldier, spy, and a nurse at Fortress Monroe. She was later denied payment for her wartime service and was forced after a bruising fight and was carried in a baggage car on her return to Auburn. Harriet Tubman reportedly suffered narcolepsy as a result of the head injury she sustained as a child.

After the close of the Civil War, she returned to Auburn, NY and married Nelson Davis who she met while guiding a group of black soldiers in South Carolina. They lived in a home they built

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