Sarah Stortz

The Stony Brook School | Stony Brook, NY | 9-12th Grade

Inspirational Family Member
My Mother

The first woman in my family history to vote was my mother. She was the first in my family to do many things. She grew up in Honduras, a third-world country in Latin America, and was very poor. Her family could not vote since they did not live in America.

When my mom was eleven, she immigrated illegally to America to find herself a better life. Most of the things she did in America she figured out for herself without help from others - including her family. My mom did not speak a word of English, but taught herself how to speak it through her sheer determination. She was the only woman in our family to get a formal education, and even went to college and grad school. She got a good job and even became a legal American citizen.

By the time my mother was in America and old enough to vote, women were already voting around the country. My mother was able to raise her voice and make a difference by choosing to vote in America. She chose to educate herself about America’s political system, and made her own choices on who to vote for. She was able to accomplish things that the women in my family before her could not imagine. Coming to America, becoming a US citizen, getting an education, learning English, voting, getting a stable job - she was the first to do all of these things. She definitely led the way for the other women in her family, like my sisters and me. Because she tried so hard to make a better life not only for herself, but also for us, we can get a very good education. We can live here in America. We don’t have to grow up poor like she did. Thanks to her, my sisters and I have a much better future, and have many more opportunities growing up than she did.

Historical Figure I Admire
Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was a suffragette who opened the way to freedom for African-Americans, slaves, and women. She herself was born in captivity and was a slave until she escaped at around twenty-seven years-old. After her escape, she found an organization called the “Underground Railroad” which helped emancipate slaves, and became one of their most influential leaders. It is incredible how much Harriet was able to accomplish as a slave, a woman and an African-American. This is the story of Harriet Tubman and her cry for freedom and equality.

Harriet Tubman was born a slave on a plantation in Dorchester County, and was named Araminta Ross or “Minty.” She had eight siblings, all slaves, and three of her sisters were sold to pay off debts. She prayed that she and her brothers would not be sold off, and when nothing happened, she prayed for the slave-owner, Edward Brodess, to die. About a week after, Edward finally died. Although Minty felt guilty, she realized that this was the opportunity that she was waiting for. She said it was better to escape and be caught than to remain as a slave. Minty Ross started planning her escape, starting with her name, which she changed to Harriet Tubman - after her mother, and her husband’s last name.

While Harriet was escaping, she also started trying to free other slaves. Harriet wanted to be a free woman and she wanted the same for all other slaves, especially her family. Her two brothers Harry and Ben ran away with her, although they later returned to the plantation. After seeing that they were safe, a determined Harriet kept on north, in order to reach the “Promised Land,” the free states. The experience of escaping the plantation showed Harriet the joys of freedom. She said about crossing the line to the free states, “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 the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.”

Now that she was free, Harriet would struggle to fight for others’ freedom. She said, “I had crossed the line. I was free, but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all, was down in Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.”

Since she was young, Harriet had been fighting for equality. She even took a blow to the head at a young age in order to stop a slave from being beaten. She was later known as the “Moses” of her people, since she fought to liberate thousands of slaves. Harriet felt strongly that all people are the same, and no one should be a captive like she was. Tubman was helped by those in the Underground Railroad during her escape, and she decided to work with them to deliver others from slavery.

Harriet Tubman started to work with the Underground Railroad. She would lead missions, putting herself at risk in order to liberate slaves. During her time at the railroad, she was able to free thousands of slaves, without ever being caught or losing a single one. These accomplishments are nothing short of amazing, and Harriet was able to make a huge difference, even though she was a woman. She really showed the world that all people are equal and you can do great things no matter who you are, whether it be a slave, an African-American, or a woman.

What the Project Means to Me

Having researched these amazing women was really an experience. While looking at their accomplishments, I really saw just how much women can accomplish. Harriet Tubman did not do that much regarding voting for women; however, I think she did something more important. I was able to see how much she did, freeing thousands of slaves without ever being caught. While doing research on my mother’s story, I realized just how much she has also accomplished, and how it is similar to Harriet’s story as well. Harriet was a slave, she was a woman, and she was black. My mother was from a third-world country, a woman, extremely poor. All of these were irrelevant once my mom decided to make a better life in America, once Harriet decided to make a better life in the free states. She did not listen to what she could not do, she only pushed ahead, determined to become more educated, and to be better off. One thing is clear to me from looking at these women’s stories - they succeeded. My mom tried to get an education and she did - success. She tried to get a job, and she has one - success. Both women wanted to come to a better land; both wanted to make a better life for her family; both were able to accomplish anything they set their minds to; both succeeded, they disregarded everything and everyone that thought they couldn’t do it. These women have done so much when no one thought they could, and I think that really is amazing.

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