Happy Birthday, Harriet Tubman: Lessons To Learn for All Women Leaders

The lessons from Underground Railroad champion Harriet Tubman apply to women leaders today. Five-year-old kindergartner Lola dressed up as a different historic black woman leader each day recently to honor Black History Month. And one of her most beloved characterizations may well have been when she posed for the photo dressed as Harriet Tubman.In honor of Tubman’s birthday March 11, 1820, we acknowledge the courage, intelligence and profound bold leadership of a woman born almost two centuries ago, and whose legacy inspires us still. For Women’s History Month and her birthday, we applaud Tubman’s lessons in ethical leadership as she persisted for justice in spite of severe repercussions and dangers.[bctt tweet=“For Harriet Tubman’s birthday we applaud her lessons in ethical leadership #WomensHistoryMonth” username=“takeleadwomen”]Born Araminta “Minty” Ross around  in Dorchester County, Md., she later changed her first name to her mother’s name, Harriet. In 1844, when she married John Tubman, a free black man, she changed her last name to Tubman.A pioneer and champion of the Underground Railroad, Tubman has recently been awarded the recognition she earned.According to the Washington Post, “On March 11, the National Park Service and the Maryland State Park Service plan to unveil a new visitor center here dedicated to the life and mission of abolitionist and legendary Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.”Michael Ruane describes Tubman: “The train for Zion always left on time. And she carried a pistol, in case of trouble or flagging hearts. Her branch of the line began here, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, near places like Tobacco Stick, Kentuck Swamp, and Skeleton Creek, off the Choptank River, to the north.”He writes, “She was small and the color of a chestnut, as her owner described her when she first ran away. But she was hardened by whippings and work on the timber gangs, and she knew the wilderness as well as a hunter.”Though she was a small woman in stature, her impact then and now is enormous.[bctt tweet=“Though she was a small woman in stature, Harriet Tubman’s impact is enormous #rolemodels” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Her legacy is to keep going, and that’s what I’m trying to do, and I hope all African Americans are, too. [I hope we are] trying to keep going and make things better for us,” Pauline Copes Johnson, Tubman’s great-great-grandniece, told The Root.A slave since she was a child, when her work was to care for infants as a nursemaid, she was later a field worker as a teenager.  The slave owner hit her in the head with a thrown object and she  suffered a concussion and other prolonged injuries as a result.“Called the ‘Moses of Her People,’ Tubman took more than a dozen trips to the South over a 10-year period and used the Underground Railroad to help hundreds of slaves, including her loved ones, to escape to the Northern states and Canada,” Sharee Silerio writes in The Root.“The year after Harriet Tubman’s arrival in the North, she decided to return to Maryland to free her sister and her sister’s family. Over the next 12 years, she returned 18 or 19 more times, bringing a total of more than 300 slaves out of slavery,” according to ThoughtCo.To honor her, in 2020, Tubman will “replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill; the U.S. Department of Interior is establishing the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in her hometown in upstate New York; and 2017 is declared  the ‘Year of Tubman’ by the Maryland Park Service, “ Silerio writes.In addition to the 17-acre national park, “A bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin would allow for a Tubman statue to be displayed in a prominent location in the Capitol in Washington. The legislation is the next step in getting a Tubman statue in the Capitol building,” according to Auburn Pub. .“Harriet Tubman is an American hero, and it is an important way to honor her incredible contributions to our nation’s history by installing a statue reflecting her work in the U.S. Capitol,” Van Hollen said in a statement.[bctt tweet=“The lessons to learn from Harriet Tubman apply to all women leaders today #womenleaders” username=“takeleadwomen”]The lessons to learn from Tubman apply to all women leaders today. What can we learn from this amazing woman leader?

  • Tubman was exceptionally well-organized. The hundreds of slaves she was able to move to freedom offered extreme logistical challenges, conquering time and geography.
  • As a clear communicator, Tubman sent messages about her mission, involving a complicated network of allies, supporters and slaves she was helping. She also was able to send messages about the importance of freedom and courage as a foundation for civil rights.
  • A keen fundraiser, Tubman used her voice to connect to people who could help the cause. And she was able to enlist their help in concrete ways.  She was allied with men and women of all races, including “Susan B Anthony, William H. Seward, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Mann and the Alcotts, as well as educator Bronson Alcott and writer Louisa May Alcott, among others,” according to ThoughtCo. “Many of these supporters — like Susan B. Anthony — gave Tubman the use of their homes as stations on the underground railroad. Tubman also had crucial support from abolitionists William Still of Philadelphia and Thomas Garratt of Wilmington, Delaware.”
  • Tubman’s resourcefulness speaks to Leadership Power Tool # 3 as created by Gloria Feldt, Take The Lead co-founder and president. “Use What You’ve Got,” is Power Tool #3 that embodies Tubman’s life of social justice action. Feldt writes, “What you need is almost always there. See it and use it with courage. Because power unused is power useless.”

In the Year of Tubman, we honor a timeless woman to emulate, honor and celebrate.