After escaping slavery on her own in 1849, Harriet Tubman helped others journey on the Underground Railroad. From 1850 to 1860 she made an estimated 13 trips and rescued around 70 enslaved people, including many members of her family. She also provided information so that others could find their way north to freedom. Tubman aided so many in escaping slavery that she was called "Moses."
Wanting to bring an end to slavery, Tubman also coordinated with abolitionists. During the Civil War, she became a nurse and a spy for the Union. And despite her ongoing financial struggles, she continued to fight for equality and justice by speaking out against prejudice and advocating women's suffrage. It's clear Tubman led a momentous life that made the world a better place.
c. 1822: Tubman is born as Araminta "Minty" Ross in Maryland's Dorchester County
Her parents, Ben Ross and Harriet "Rit" Green, are both enslaved, meaning Ross had the same status at birth.
Though her birthdate has often been listed as around 1820, a record from March 1822 lists that a midwife had been paid for tending to Green, which suggests the birth may have taken place in February or March of that year.
c. 1828: Tubman is about five or six years old when her enslavers hire her out to tend to an infant. She is whipped for any perceived mistakes.
c. 1829: Around the age of seven, Tubman is again hired out. Her duties include walking into wet marshes to check muskrat traps. She becomes ill with measles and returns to her mother to recover.
c. 1834-36: An overseer throws a two-pound weight at another slave but hits Tubman's head. She barely survives the devastating injury and experiences headaches for the remainder of her life. It's possible this injury led to her suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy, which could explain her visions and sleeping spells.
c. 1835: Tubman works as a field hand, which she prefers to inside tasks.
c. 1830s: Two of Tubman's older sisters are sold and transported out of Maryland.
1840: Tubman's father is freed from slavery.
1844: She weds John Tubman, a free Black man, though her status as a slave means the union is not legally recognized. Upon marriage, Tubman adopts her mother's name of Harriet.
March 7, 1849: Tubman's owner dies, which makes her fear being sold.
September 17, 1849: Tubman heads north with two of her brothers to escape slavery. However, the men become nervous and convince their sister to return.
October 1849: Tubman runs away
She follows the North Star and makes it to Philadelphia. As Pennsylvania is a free state, she has escaped enslavement.
September 18, 1850: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passes. It requires all parts of the United States, even states that had outlawed slavery, to participate in the return of runaway slaves.
December 1850: Tubman helps rescue a niece and her niece's children after learning they are supposed to be sold at auction.
1851: Tubman tries to bring her husband north, but he decides to remain with his second wife, a free Black woman. Tubman instead guides another group to Canada, where they will be outside the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act.
December 1854: Tubman helps a group that includes three of her brothers travel to Canada.
June 1857: Tubman brings her parents from Maryland to Canada
Her father is in danger because he has been helping the Underground Railroad.
April 1858: In Canada, Tubman meets abolitionist John Brown. She learns of his plans to spark a slave rebellion in the United States and agrees to gather recruits for the cause.
October 16, 1859: Brown's raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry in Virginia (now West Virginia) takes place. Tubman does not participate, perhaps due to illness.
1859: Tubman purchases a property in Auburn, New York, from antislavery politician William H. Seward. Having been unhappy in Canada, her parents join Tubman there.
April 27, 1860: In Troy, New York, Tubman helps former slave Charles Nalle elude the U.S. marshals who intend to return him to his enslaver.
December 1860: Tubman makes her last trip on the Underground Railroad
1862: Following the start of the Civil War, Tubman joins Union troops in South Carolina. She becomes a nurse, while also running a wash house and working as a cook to earn money.
c. 1863: Tubman serves as a spy for the Union
She coordinates with former slaves from the area to gather information about the opposing Confederate forces.
June 1-2, 1863: Tubman leads an armed raid up the Combahee River raid in South Carolina. The mission destroys Confederate supplies and frees more than 700 enslaved people. Tubman is the first woman to head a military expedition in the United States.
July 1863: After the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, whose soldiers were African American volunteers, suffers devastating losses during a bloody battle at Fort Wagner, Tubman helps bury the dead and aids survivors.
June 1864: Tubman is granted a furlough and goes to Auburn to visit her parents.
1865: Tubman nurses Black soldiers at Fort Monroe in Virginia. After the Civil War ends, she visits Washington, D.C., and informs the surgeon general that Black soldiers are experiencing harsh conditions in military hospitals.
July 1865: Tubman asks Seward, who is secretary of state, to help her receive payment for her work during the war. She is not successful, due in part to the turmoil of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and Seward's ongoing recovery from stab wounds suffering during an assassination attempt.
October 1865: Tubman is traveling home by train when a conductor orders her, using a racial slur, to go to a different car. She defends her rights but is forcibly removed.
December 1868: Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, a biography by Sarah Bradford is published (though the official publication date is listed as 1869). The book has multiple inaccuracies but sales raise approximately $1,200 for a financially struggling Tubman.
March 18, 1869: Tubman weds Nelson Davis, a 25-year-old former slave and Civil War veteran.
1873: Tubman is robbed by men who trick her into believing they could provide her with Confederate gold.
1874: Tubman and her husband adopt a daughter, whom they name Gertie Davis.
June 1886: Tubman buys 25 acres of land next to her home in Auburn to create a nursing home for Black Americans.
October 1886: A revised Tubman biography, Harriet, the Moses of Her People, is published.
October 18, 1888: Tubman's husband dies after suffering from tuberculosis.
1890s: Tubman becomes more involved in the movement for women's suffrage.
June 1890: Tubman applies for a pension as a Civil War widow.
October 16, 1895: Tubman is approved for a war widow pension of $8 a month.
July 1896: Tubman speaks at the founding conference of the National Association of Colored Women.
November 1896: Tubman is introduced by Susan B. Anthony at a suffrage convention in Rochester, New York.
1897: Queen Victoria sends Tubman a shawl and a medal in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. The queen also invites Tubman to visit England to celebrate her birthday, but Tubman's straitened finances make this an impossibility.
Late 1890s: Tubman undergoes brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in an attempt to alleviate her painful headaches.
1899: Congress raises Tubman's pension to $20 per month, but the increase is for her services as a nurse instead of her military work.
June 23, 1908: Tubman attends the opening ceremony for the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. It will be operated by AME Zion Church, which has taken over the deed to the property.
May 19, 1911: An ailing Tubman becomes a resident of the Harriet Tubman Home. Supporters raise funds to finance her care.
March 10, 1913: Tubman dies following a battle with pneumonia
March 13, 1913: Tubman is buried with military honors.