Boston's Women and the Underground Railroad

“Long years before Boston [had] begun to think of subways and tunnels “The Underground Railroad” ran its all but noiseless way through city and suburbs, for the benefit of such fugitive Southern slaves as came this way.”

- “Old Passages of Boston's ‘Underground Railroad’ Uncovered,” Boston Evening Transcript, March 31, 1926.

The mystique of the Underground Railroad has long captivated the imagination of our nation. While Americans recall with fondness the legendary figure of Harriet Tubman, they otherwise fail to recognize and remember the contributions of women to the Underground Railroad. In Boston, the Underground Railroad became inseparable from the community of free Black Bostonians who resided on the north slope of Beacon Hill.1 At the heart of that community stood Boston’s women. Although legally tied to their husbands and fathers in economic matters, Boston’s women boldly aided freedom seekers entering their community, becoming critical contributors to the Underground Railroad.2

We invite you to explore the many contributions of Boston’s women to the Underground Railroad through the following resources.

Introduction Video Image Credits

Images courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, the Library of Congress, and the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Witness and Testimony Video Image Credits

Images courtesy of the Library of Congress, the American Antiquarian Society, and Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Organizing Video Image Credits

Images courtesy of Historic New England, the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, and the US Capitol.

Direct Action Video Image Credits

Images courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Massachusetts Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the Ohio Memory Center, the Cleveland Gazette, and


  1. Stephen Kantrowitz, More Than Freedom; Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829 - 1889 (New York City: Penguin Books, 2013), 17.
  2. Kantrowitz, More Than Freedom, 189.

Last updated: September 7, 2021