One of the Most Powerful Women in American History Had Less Power Than You

When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven. ~Harriet Tubman

She stood at just five feet, two inches tall. 

She couldn’t read. She couldn’t write. 

She suffered from narcolepsy and visions and life-long headaches because when she was 13 years old a man threw a weight at her head.

And she was a slave.

There are so many reasons she shouldn’t have been able to be who she was.

But all of those reasons made her into the heroic woman we know her to have been.

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1820. 

By the time she was five years old, she was “loaned out” to other households for chores and odd jobs – preparing for a life of hard work and strife and tragedy and heartache. At five years old, she would have just graduated from needing a nap (if she was ever allowed to take one, that is); she would have had tiny clothes, and tiny five-year-old’s hands, and a child’s eyes that sparkle when they see a butterfly.

She would have learned, I’m sure, that being a female slave meant you were the least powerful human at the time. 

But she learned other lessons about power, too. Her own mother (whose name was also Harriet) was a courageous woman who was willing to exact every last drop of power that she had when it mattered. 

Harriet saw her use that power, firsthand.

As the story goes, one night, men were sent to take Harriet’s brother to a different property.

“You may get this boy,” her mother shouted from inside the door, “But whichever of you comes through that door first will have a split skull for it.” 

The men … left.

I don’t know, but perhaps that was the moment when Harriet recognized: 

Even the powerless have great power. If they’re willing to take the risk to exercise it.

And perhaps that’s where she found the courage to, at thirteen-years old, throw herself between a slave and an angry overseer; the weight the overseer had thrown at that slave hit Harriet in the head and nearly killed her.

And perhaps that’s where she found the courage to escape (and fail) and escape again – to find her way to Philadelphia and freedom. 

And perhaps that’s where she found the courage to return after her escape to free her mother and others that had been left behind.

That’s how you’ve probably heard about Harriet, right? The stories about her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, traveling with her charges by night through swamps and woods to avoid detection, are awe-inspiring. She made over ten trips back over the Mason-Dixon line to help people escape; she used to say that she never derailed a train, and never lost a passenger.

She personally led dozens – some say hundreds – of slaves to freedom, first over the Mason-Dixon line, and then further into Canada.

Those are amazing tales of heroism and courage, made more fantastic by the fact she was a woman.

But this woman – who was once a pre-school aged house slave who lived off of table scraps and was returned to her plantation because she had eaten a sugar cube – did much more than run routes on the Underground Railroad. 

When the Civil War began, she took her work above ground and enlisted as a “contraband” nurse – a nurse that would tend to the often sick and dying slaves that were left behind. She became a Union spy, and a scout – and she led Union troops on raids.

After the war she organized “Freemen’s Fairs” to benefit former slaves and took in what she called the “odds and ends” of society – even as she personally struggled to make ends meet and bartered crops, burned fencing to heat her home, and took on as many borders as she and her family could. Eventually she purchased the property next to her own as a home for the aged and indigent.

She did not stop trying to improve other peoples’ lives until her own life ended at 93.

How could this woman – slight in stature, illiterate, often penniless – lacking in every kind of power we are taught to believe we need to make a difference – make such a profound impact?

To be honest, it seems that she just went about doing what she saw that needed to be done, no matter who or what was in her way, and no matter what risks there were.

That, friend, appears to be her secret sauce.

It’s easy to dismiss yourself – to excuse yourself from action by saying you don’t matter. It’s easy to say that whatever your hands can do just … isn’t enough – that you don’t have the power, or the money, or the education, or the experience.

So why bother.


Well, I’m here to quiet that voice in your head.

If you have the will, you will find a way.

When the obstacles seem insurmountable and you’re exhausted and overwhelmed… 

When you feel insignificant, and unimportant, and like you can’t make a difference – because you’re just one person, after all…

Try to remind yourself. You’re one person. You’re one person who has more education, more experience, more resources, more … power – than someone who inspired an entire nation.

One person – you – can make one hell of a difference.

And when you have so many others of us beside you? (Because we are beside, in front, and behind you…)

Well, then, friend.

We can change history.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of July 12, 2022

Tuesday: Tune In To the Next January 6 Committee Hearing at 1pm EST

Lots going on today, folks! Today is the January 6th Committee’s next hearing, and if the past is any indication it will be another barn-burner. **The scheduled start time for the hearing was recently changed from 10am to 1pm.

Polling shows that these hearings are making a difference – especially with independent voters. That’s good, important, news. So tune in at 1pm at

Tuesday: Join Vote Forward’s Big Send

Also today, Tuesday, from 8-9pm EST join Vote Forward for their biggest electoral letter writing program of the year.

Together, they’re sending 10 million handwritten letters encouraging people to vote in the 2022 midterms.

Join volunteers from across the country to learn more about the impact of the letters, receive tips and training on refining your message to voters, and have your letter writing questions answered by the Vote Forward team!

Letter Writing is proven to increase voter turnout, and you can do it with a group of friends or on your own from the comfort of your couch! Plus, it’s one of the easiest ways to turn your anger, passion, and hope into real action.

Vote Forward’s letter writing campaigns are designed to reach voters in the congressional districts and states where boosting turnout will have the biggest impact on election outcomes, with a particular focus on reaching historically underrepresented voters in Black, Asian, Latino, and Native American communities.

They’re writing letters all year long, keeping them somewhere safe, and mailing them together on October 29, just before Election Day when they will make the biggest impact.

RSVP today, HERE and they’ll let you know how to join this event.

Never written letters before? No problem! Visit and make an account, download twenty letters, and we’ll show you how to write and prepare them at our event!

Tuesday: Starts Today! Register for the Indivisible Summit

This sounds like a great event – totally virtual, and you can go to as many (or as few) sessions as you want.

This is our time to strategize across our movement, and organize for the crucial midterm elections this November. Here’s some of what you can expect:

Day 1: We’ll dive deep into how we can use strategic messaging to make sure your peers, the press, and persuadable voters understand how extreme the mainstream Republican Party is today.

Day 2: We’ll hear directly from local group leaders who are organizing diverse and creative voter outreach initiatives in their communities.

Day 3: Recognizing the pandemic and political fatigue have made it harder for local groups to recruit and retain members, we’ll share best practices for recruiting strong members and getting them involved.

Please note that you do NOT need to attend the full event every evening. Our convention is open to all Indivisible activists, not just group leaders or steering committee members, so be sure to share this invitation with your group members who may be interested!

Call Congress: Pass the Treat Long COVID Act

Long COVID impacts between 5-30 million Americans.

For reference:

That’s five Missouris.

Or three Michigans.

Or one Texas.

In other words, this is a massive crisis.

There are two pieces of legislation that have been drafted to address Long COVID in some way, shape or form. As of yet, neither is getting much attention and that has got to change.

The TREAT Long COVID Act would expand treatment for Long COVID nationwide by:

  • Authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants up to $2,000,000 to health care providers, including community health centers;
  • Granting funding for the creation and expansion of multidisciplinary Long COVID clinics to address the physical and mental health needs of patients;
  • Prioritizing funding for health providers that plan to engage medically underserved populations and populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19;
  • Ensuring that treatment is not denied based on insurance coverage, date or method of diagnosis, or previous hospitalization;
  • Encouraging ongoing medical training for physicians in Long COVID Clinics and other health care workers serving patients; and
  • Requiring grantees to submit an annual report on its activities that includes evaluations from patients.

The TREAT Long COVID Act has been endorsed by the COVID-19 Longhauler Advocacy Project, Body Politic, Patient-Led Research Collaborative, Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers, Access Living, National Health Council, American Physical Therapy Association, Massachusetts ME/CFS & FM Association, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mbadika, Solve M.E., American Association on Health and Disability, and Lakeshore Foundation.

It’s bill 7482, and has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Go here to find out if your rep is on the Energy and Commerce committee:

Go to to see if your rep is a cosponsor. (Since the first time I mentioned this legislation we went from 2 to 33 cosponsors – great progress! But we need more). Here’s the link:

Let’s raise their awareness of this legislation, and bring it into the conversation.

Here’s a script for you to use: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Congress(wo)man’s position on the Treat Long COVID Act that was introduced by Congresswoman Pressley. [Insert your own personal stake, if you have one – including friends and family that have been impacted.] We already know that between 5 and 30 million Americans have Long COVID and the burden is only going to get larger with time. I don’t see the Congress(wo)man on the record as supporting this bill yet? Why not?


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s