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Harriet Tubman is one of the most iconic figures in American history known for her courageous efforts with the Underground Railroad. She risked her life many times to help free slaves and fight for abolition. But what does history record about her personal life as a mother? How many children did the heroic Harriet Tubman have?

Tubman was married to a free black man named John Tubman and gave birth to one child, a daughter named Gertie. Motherhood was a cherished part of Tubman’s life, albeit while facing immense challenges and hardships under slavery and racism. Let’s explore details about Harriet Tubman’s marriage, daughter, and devotion to family.

Her Marriage to Husband John Tubman

In 1844 in Maryland, Harriet Tubman, then around 25 years old, married a free Black man named John Tubman. John was considerably older than Harriet, and a widower with two children from a previous marriage.

Little is recorded about how Harriet and John met or the specifics of their relationship. Interracial marriage was forbidden at the time, so they lived together as husband and wife in common-law. Legally slaves could not officially marry.

The union seems to have been one of convenience – John provided protection and status as a freeman, while Harriet kept house. Her work as a slave limited chances to bond. Biographer Catherine Clinton described it as a “passionless union.”

Sadly, around 1851, Tubman left her husband and escaped alone from slavery via the Underground Railroad. John declined to leave with her, so they effectively separated. He later remarried in 1867.

Harriet and John Had One Daughter, Gertie

Harriet Tubman gave birth to one child with her husband John – a daughter named Gertie. Records differ on her exact birth year, with estimates ranging from 1845-1849. This would have made Tubman anywhere from her late teens to early 20s when becoming a mother.

Little Gertie was born into slavery like her mother. Tragically, Gertie got sick as an infant. Tubman had to leave the sick baby behind when she ran away from slavery in 1849.

They were heartbreakingly separated until Gertie was rescued and reunited with her mother around 1857 in Philadelphia. After more time apart, they were together again during the Civil War.

Tubman Deeply Loved Her Daughter Gertie

While Tubman’s life was mainly centered on activism, her daughter Gertie was a profound source of love. In a rare letter mentioning Gertie, she wrote “I cannot express the joy it gave me to see my daughter…she has grown to be a large girl.”

Being separated from the sick baby Gertie haunted Tubman. She saved funds to help care for Gertie from afar until finally freeing her. Tubman later successfully petitioned for back pay for her husband to support Gertie.

Though work kept them apart, Tubman treasured the times they could be together before Gertie grew up and had a family of her own. For Tubman, Gertie’s freedom was the most precious gift.

Tubman Cared for Other Family Members

Though she could only have one child herself, Tubman became the matriarch of a large extended family. At her home in Auburn, New York she cared for aging parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and other loved ones.

With deep empathy, she housed former slaves, providing food, work, and a welcoming haven. She also adopted children in need and funded schooling.

Later in life, her humanitarianism expanded through activism for women’s suffrage. Tubman dedicated herself to family, community, and justice.

Harriet Tubman Kids FAQs

Here are some key questions about Harriet Tubman’s family life and daughter Gertie:

How many biological children did Harriet Tubman have?

Harriet Tubman had one biological child, a daughter named Gertie, born in the late 1840s. Gertie’s father was Harriet’s husband at the time, John Tubman.

Did Harriet Tubman raise her daughter Gertie?

Sadly, no. Gertie was born into slavery like Harriet. When Gertie became sick as a baby, a heartbroken Harriet had to leave her behind upon escaping slavery in 1849. They later reunited around 1857 once Gertie was liberated.

What happened to Harriet Tubman’s daughter?

Gertie grew up, married, and had a family of her own. Though work kept them apart, Harriet stayed close to her daughter. Gertie eventually lived with Harriet in her elder years and helped care for her.

Was Harriet Tubman’s daughter born free or enslaved?

Gertie was born into slavery like her mother, despite her father John Tubman being a free man. It was not until around age 8 or 12 that Gertie was rescued via the Underground Railroad.

Did Harriet Tubman raise any foster or adopted kids?

Yes. Though she only gave birth to one child, Tubman informally adopted several children. She also cared for nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and other extended family and boarders in her New York home later in life.

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