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Born in 1820 and Died in 1913


The first black woman to have her likeness honored on a United States postage stamp did not happen until 1978 as a part of the Post Office Black Heritage Series.

The very first woman to be honored on a postage stamp was Queen Isabella in the year 1893.

The first American woman was Martha Washington in 1902.

Pocahontas was the first Native American woman honored on a postage stamp in 1907.

Finally, in 1978, Harriet Tubman became the first black woman honored on a postage stamp. It was the thirteen cent stamp.

She was honored again in 1995 with her likeness on a thirty-two cent postage stamp.

Subsequently more courageous and outstanding black women have been honored on the U.S. Postage stamp: Mary McLeod Bethume, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Bessie Coleman, Madam C.J. Walker, Patricia Roberts Harris, Marian Anderson, Hattie McDaniel, Ella Fitzgerald, Anna Julia Cooper, Barbara Jordan, Althea Gibson, Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks, Celia Cruz, Katherine Dunham, Edna Lewis, Josephine Baker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Martin, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta, Ethel L. Payne, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary Church Terrell, Daisy Gatso Bates, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Wilma Rudolph, Maya Angelou, Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Height, Lena Horne and Gwen Ifill.

Harriet Tubman was also the first black woman to have a military ship named for her:

The S.S. Harriet Tubman was launched in June of 1944. Christened by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The National Council of Negro Women petitioned the U.S. Maritime Commission to honor Tubman by naming a Liberty ship after her. The launch took place in Portland, Maine. The S.S. Harriet Tubman was taken out of commission and scrapped in 1979.

Harriet Tubman also holds the privilege of being the first woman and first black woman to lead a military operation attack when she led the Raid on Combahee Ferry during the Civil War on June 1, 1863.

Harriet Tubman led the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment to Beaufort, South Carolina on the Sentinel, USS Harriet along with another ship commanded by Colonel Montgomery.

Tubman and Montgomery commanded over 300 soldiers as they headed for St. Helena Sound in South Carolina. It is reported that the confederate soldiers retreated to the woods upon seeing the ships approach while hundreds of slaves; men, women and children ran toward the ships.

The Union soldiers set fire to the Confederate plantations, buildings and food supply. The ships made several trips back to save all waiting along the shore. Many went to a resettlement camp on St. Helena Island while many of the men saved from slavery joined the Union Army for the cause. The slaves were not aware that earlier that same year on January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order freeing the slaves. The South, as well as Texas, was disregarding the proclamation and as a result the slaves in the South had no idea they had legally been freed.

One of the Union Generals wrote in a memo to Secretary Stanton some time later:

“This is the only military command in American history wherein a woman, black or white, led the raid and under whose inspiration it was originated and conducted” [General R. Saxton]

The raid was a success and at least 750 slaves were brought to freedom.

Harriet Tubman, who started her life as a slave, not escaping until the age of 27 went on to save so many using the Underground Railroad, became a spy and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War becoming the first woman to lead a military charge did not live long enough to vote in an election but she lived a life compelled to help others at the risk of her own life.

Find out what happened to Harriet Tubman after the Underground Railroad, after the Civil War and after Emancipation. She lived another 48 years in Auburn, New York. The rest of her life has been documented in a new book:

Harriet Tubman: The Rest of Her Story

Paula C. Henderson
Paula C. Henderson
Read next: The State
Paula C. Henderson

Paula is a freelance writer, healthy food advocate, mom and cookbook author.

See all posts by Paula C. Henderson