In yesterday’s DM we honored work as a forge of holiness.  And in recent DMs we remembered black heroes and sheroes of old.

Harriet Tubman, 1895. Photo by Horatio Seymour Squyer, National Portrait Gallery. Wikimedia Commons

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1911) is one of those sheroes.  Called the “Moses of her people,” she escaped from slavery and then committed herself to assisting others to escape.   

Called a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, she made about nine precarious trips south to free others–around 70 people in all, historians tells us.  

On these nine very risky journeys, she assures us, she never lost a single person in the process.

As an enslaved child in Maryland, she was already put to work at five years of age.  When 12 years old, she intervened when a master was beating a black man and in the process was hit with a metal object that rendered her with severe headaches and narcolepsy the rest of her life.

She served as a scout, spy, guerilla soldier and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War and is recognized as the first African American woman to serve in the military.  She would dress as an old woman and wander streets of Southern cities talking to slaves and gathering reconnaissance for the army that way. 

Trailer of the 2019 movie Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo. Focus Features.

As a nurse she dispensed herbal remedies to black and white soldiers alike who were dying of infection and disease.

She worked with the army in Union-held portions of South Carolina and participated in one of the more daring raids of the Civil War–a nighttime raid at Combahee Ferry in June, 1863.  

She helped guide Union soldiers along mine-filled waters, and then coming ashore, they rescued 700 enslaved people from plantations nearby.  All the while, slave owners and Confederate soldiers were shooting at the rescue team.

Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, Auburn, NY, U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Wikimedia Commons.

After the war, she entered the battle for women’s suffrage, joining Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony in that quest.  

She also cared for her aging parents and worked with a writer to develop her autobiography. 

With very modest financial resources, she opened a Home for the Aged for impoverished Black people near Auburn, New York and died in that home of pneumonia in 1911.

We recognize in her accomplishments the same courage and bravery, vision and generosity, commitment to action for justice—in short, holiness–that we find in her sister Sojourner Truth and brother Frederick Douglass.


See Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

Banner Image: Mural, Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, Cambridge, MD. Photo by Kirt Morris on Unsplash


Queries for Contemplation

What most inspires you in Harriet Tubman’s story?  Do you see it embodying parallel bravery of people like MLK, Jr. and Jesus and Alexei Nevalny and Sister Dorothy Stang?


Recommended Reading

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.


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6 thoughts on “Harriet Tubman, A Holy Worker Par Excellence”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    What inspires me about Harriet Tubman’s life story, is her great measure of TRUST… in her unique, authentic and personal relationship with the living essence and presence of the Spirit of God, the Angels and the Sacred Ancestors… that comforted, consoled, wisely councilled her, protecting and providing for her; through all that she experienced and encountered in life.

    She also trusted in herself… in the gifts given her… being receptive to the visions and dreams she was experiencing and then accessing her intuition, intellect, imagination and creativity in interpreting their meanings in response. She understood the language of Spirit, by being open in heart, receptive in mind and surrendering in soul…to sensing and responding in TRUST… to all the signs and the many ways that Spirit uses to communicate to humanity, both inwardly and in the natural world.

    Some may call this TRUST… faith… in the ONENESS of the reality and mysteries of the Spiritual and Natural realm… or the As Above and the So Below… or the Visible and Invisible realm… that we are all invited to experience and encounter for ourselves, within the Sacred Journey of life. We are not alone, left to ourselves!

    1. Avatar

      Thank you, Jeanette, for sharing your reflections. I am grateful for “in-spir-ation” through Harriet, Matthew, and you.
      Glory be
      ……and may our work be ever more focused and empowered by the Spirit.

  2. Avatar

    Yes!! We can be so proud of so many spiritual warriors in our human heritage and up to our contemporary times who still inspire us with their past lives and Present Spirits to continue the Eternal struggle for LOVE~WISDOM~TRUTH~PEACE~JUSTICE~HEALING~TRANSFORMATION~
    FREEDOM~CREATIVITY~BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION~DIVERSE LOVING ONENESS… in Our Hearts/Souls and Lives With One Another (All Beings) in our physical (Sacred Mother Earth) and spiritual realms (multidimensional-multiverse COSMOS) in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar

    Harriet Tubman had a radical courageous commitment to justice and compassion as did MLK Jr., Navalny, Jesus and Dorothy Stang. Harriet differs in that – having been spared a violent death – she ultimately died of natural causes. RIP

  4. Avatar

    The movie about her life is fascinating and can be seen on Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/title/81011382
    One of the things that impresses me is her intelligence and creativity in pretending to be a foolish old woman and completely hoodwinking those looking for her as she passed right by them. And yet she was uneducated by our standards. She was also courageous and feisty and carried a gun, not to fight off soldiers, but to encourage those she was conveying away from slavery not to go back and threaten them all with discovery. She used her natural God-given gifts in the service of others.

  5. Avatar

    Thank you for this inspiring tribute and reminder, Matthew! Harriet Tubman is one of my favorite films of all time!!! And I wish to add a tribute to some current sheroes, to the women workers who are keeping us moving forward in these tough times! They are the singers, songwriters, and song leaders such as Holly Near, Pat Humphries and Sandy O of Emma’s Revolution, and Jennifer Berezen, to name just a few! They lift me up…when I feel, and fall, down!

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