#BreakTheBias: Harriet Tubman

Hattie – Year 8 Student

Editor’s note: This excellent essay was the Year 8 Winner in the GSAL International Women’s Day Essay Competition 2022, open to all students in Year 7-9. The challenge was to write a 150-250 word essay on one female trailblazer or change-maker from the past, outlining their accomplishments and explaining why they are seen to be significant. Having been shortlisted, the essay was then read and reviewed anonymously by the school Principal who noted, “[this was a] very strong essay. Well written, with additional balance amidst the admiration. Provides succinct overview of her life and achievements.” Hattie wins a small prize in recognition of this excellent achievement. CPD

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman was destined to be a labourer for life. However, despite this, she  influenced hundreds of lives by freeing people from slavery and inspired people world-wide to fight for their rights.

Born in Maryland in around 1820, she was rented out as a slave when she was five. She was often whipped, leaving her with many scars. At twelve, Harriet began standing up for others. Seeing an overseer about to punish a slave by throwing a weight at them, she stepped between them and the weight struck her head. Harriet never fully recovered from this and was left with narcolepsy, cataplexy and hypersomnia. This didn’t prevent her from making a change.

In 1844, Harriet realised two of her brothers were about to be sold.  She was devastated and planned to escape with them. Unfortunately, Harriet’s brothers backed out, however, Harriet made it ninety miles North to Pennsylvania, with help from the underground railroad.  She became a free woman but decided being free herself wasn’t enough – she wanted to help others too. She therefore returned to Maryland and assisted people to their freedom. It’s estimated that she freed seventy to three hundred slaves. I consider Harriet Tubman to be a significant change-maker because she was one of the most selfless and brave women in history, despite her status as a slave, owning severe injuries and lack of education. Harriet risked her life for years to help others … a true inspiration.


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