Harriet Tubman's Boston: 1897

The following article is part of a series exploring Harriet Tubman's deep connections to Boston, highlighting several key moments, people, and places that illustrate her long relationship with the city and its community. To learn more, visit Harriet Tubman's Boston.

Black and white historical photograph of Charles Street Meeting House, a building with a steeple.
Charles Street Meeting House, ca. 1889.

Boston Public Library

"She is as generous as the sunshine."

Charles Street Meeting House, Charles Street

In the 1890s, Tubman made several visits to Boston to see family and friends and continue her fundraising efforts. In spring of 1897, she came to the city for several months, which one local newspaper wrongly predicted "will probably be her farewell visit to Boston."1 Tubman stayed at the home of activist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin on Charles Street at the foot of Beacon Hill.2 She joined with Ruffin and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper to address a gathering of the Woman's Era Club at the Charles Street A.M.E. Church, a center of Black religious life and activism.3

During this extended visit, Tubman also attended many private receptions and public gatherings. For example, in April, she attended a reunion at People's Temple of "the remaining few of the New England abolitionists, with their children and grandchildren, for the purpose of renewing old memories and incidents of the stirring period 30 years before the war."4 The Woman's Journal hosted a reception in her honor presided over by her long-time friend Ednah D. Cheney.5 She also attended the dedication of the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial, went to a reception at the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and held forth at small gatherings in private homes.6 The Boston Daily Advertiser wrote that Tubman:

has been the center of small parties that eagerly listened to the dramatic stories of slavery and war days...Although she is now a feeble old woman, you have but to speak of the old days and her face lightens up and her eyes sparkle. If she is led to talk her voice grows strong and emphatic with is quite like listening to a brave old warrior.

Arianna C. Sparrow, who hosted one of these engagements at her home on Phillips Street, commented on Tubman’s humanitarianism and generosity. "No one can give her anything," she said, "for everything she has she gives away...She is as generous as the sunshine."7


1. Boston Evening Transcript, April 13, 1897, 4.

2. Boston Evening Transcript, April 15, 1897, 7.

3. The Boston Globe, April 12, 1897, 12.

4. The Boston Globe, April 8, 1897, 7.

5. The Woman's Journal, April 17, 1897,$129i

6. Boston Evening Transcript, June 5, 1905, 5; Boston Evening Transcript, April 21, 1897, 1; The Boston Globe, April 23, 1897, 4; Boston Evening Transcript, April 13, 1897, 4.

7. Boston Daily Advertiser, May 7, 1897.

Boston African American National Historic Site

Last updated: February 28, 2022