American freedom fighter (1820(?)-1913). Real name: Araminta Ross. Born a slave in Maryland, she was worked extremely hard and cruelly, and was often beaten by her masters. She once suffered a serious head wound when she was hit by a metal weight thrown at another slave. As a result, she was plagued by headaches, seizures, hypersomnia, and unusually vivid dreams and visions, which she believed came directly from God, for the rest of her life.

She married a free black man named John Tubman in 1844 and may have changed her name to Harriet soon afterwards. She made an escape attempt with her brothers in 1849 but had to return when they had second thoughts. She later escaped solo into Pennsylvania using the Underground Railroad. She began helping other slaves escape when she learned that her niece was about to be sold, and eventually became known as "Moses" because she guided so many slaves to freedom.

Tubman was the Underground Railroad's most successful conductor, making 19 trips to the South and bringing over 300 slaves to freedom. She even helped lead some former slaves in the North up to Canada, when the Fugitive Slave Law increased penalties on escaped slaves. She was never captured and never allowed anyone to turn back, even threatening some discouraged escapees with a gun if they wanted to return. Southerners assumed she was male and placed large bounties on her.

She helped plan John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, but was laid up sick during the raid and missed all the action (and missed getting arrested and hanged, too). She ran her last escape run in 1860 -- when the Civil War began in 1861, she became a popular abolitionist speaker, and did everything she could for the Union cause -- she pressured Abraham Lincoln on emancipation, nursed sick and wounded soldiers, and worked as a spy.

Tubman was actually the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. She served as an advisor during a raid on plantations along the Combahee River in June 1863, and guided three steamboats around Confederate mines as they headed for the shore. Numerous plantations were set fire during the raid, thousands of dollars worth of food and supplies were seized, and over 700 slaves were rescued.

After the war, Tubman married a veteran named Nelson Davis, who was 20 years younger than she was. They adopted a baby girl named Gertie. Still desperately poor, she received some much-needed income when some biographies were written about her, but she lost more money when she was taken in by a couple of con men who got her to borrow a couple thousand dollars, then mugged and robbed her.

She became an advocate for women's suffrage in the 1890s and was frequently lauded for her lifetime of service, but she was still extremely poor and once had to sell a cow just to get enough money to travel to a reception honoring her. She once underwent brain surgery in Boston because her old brain injuries made it hard for her to sleep -- she claimed that the doctors did not much more than saw her head open, and that it still made her feel much more comfortable. She was operated on without anesthesia, choosing to bite down on a bullet during the procedure because that was what Civil War soldiers had done during amputations.

Tubman died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913. She was buried with full military honors in Auburn, New York.

Research from GURPS Who's Who, compiled by Phil Masters, "Harriet Tubman" by Andy Vetromile, pp. 106-107.

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