So it was with me. I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter, with the old folks, and my brothers and sisters.5

For Harriet it was time not to rest and relax but to start working toward the attainment of her lifelong goal—to be used by God to set many of her captive people free. She said,

But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord helping me, I would bring them all there. Oh, how I prayed then, lying all alone on the cold, damp ground; “Oh, dear Lord,” I said, “I ain’t got no friend but you. Come to my help, Lord, for I’m in trouble!”6

Shortly after her arrival in Philadelphia, Harriet met William Still, who would become a vital part of that venture. Through Still’s Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, Harriet found places to live and to work, and she learned more about the activities of the Underground Railroad that had helped her escape. In fact, she spent most of her evenings at the Vigilance Committee offices.

During Harriet’s first year in the North, she had several jobs, mostly as a laundress, cleaning woman, cook, and seamstress at hotels and in clubhouses. Harriet so enjoyed her freedom to choose her own work and bosses that she moved a lot in those initial months. Because of her dogged determination to rescue her family, she lived frugally, laying aside most of her wages for that purpose.

Harriet Tubman was determined that all blacks should be free. In spite of her formidable journey north, “No fear of the lash, the bloodhound, or the fiery stake, could divert her from her self-imposed task of leading as many as possible of her people ‘from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.’ ”7 It wasn’t enough to have moral convictions against slavery. Harriet believed such convictions were only good if a person acted on them. She was, for her part, willing to do whatever it took.

1Harriet Tubman’s great-niece, Mariline Wilkins, believes the woman’s name, Miss Parsons, was a code she used for her Underground Railroad activities.

2Bradford, 53–54.


4Rebecca Price Janney, Great Women in American History (Camp Hill, Pa.: Horizon Books, 1996), 228.

5Bradford, 31–32.


7Ibid., 11.

Excerpted from Harriet Tubman by Rebecca Price Janney. Bethany House Publishers.

ISBN: 0764221825