Registration for Camp Hale Summer 2024 is now open - Enroll Today!

How the Harriet Tubman House Got Its Name

Four story brick building with adjacent courtyard

This year, as we celebrate the 125th anniversary of USES, February (Black History Month) is the perfect time to honor the Black women who made our present day possible. Harriet Tubman is one of the better known figures of American history. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman died free. She could not read or write, yet she helped establish schools for Blacks in the South, and took the elderly and orphaned into her home. She was an abolitionist, nurse, preacher, reformer, and spy. For many years, Tubman’s activities on behalf of Blacks and others in need earned her a loyal following all over the country.


In the early 20th Century, responding to the discrimination in their own community, six Black women of Boston opened the Harriet Tubman House at 37 Holyoke Street in the South End. A personal friend of Tubman, Julia O. Henson rented the Tubman House as a place of lodging for Black females who had recently migrated from the South. Later on, the Harriet Tubman House was moved to Mrs. Henson’s own home at 25 Holyoke Street. There, she and her friends, Cornelia Robinson, Annie W. Young, Fannie R. Contine, Jestina A. Johnson, Sylvia Fern, and Hibernia Waddell, organized a settlement house for the purpose of “assisting working girls in charitable ways.”

The Harriet Tubman House took in young female boarders, providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and friendship while they adjusted to their new environment. In 1906, the six founders incorporated their organization according to the dictates of Massachusetts state law. Cornelia Robinson was elected President of the Board and Matron. By this time, the Harriet Tubman House had grown into an important community institution, gathering support from neighborhood churches and women’s clubs. Harriet Tubman was made Honorary President of the Harriet Tubman House four years before her death in 1913.

Though we owe our existence to countless men and women who helped shaped the organization, this February, we honor the Black women who provided the foundation for a century of inspiring and life-changing work.

This post was adapted from an essay by Frieda Garcia, USES’s former Executive Director, issued in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death.

Last news

USES Celebrates Harriet Tubman Day
Each year, USES recognizes Harriet Tubman Day (March 10th) to honor and remember Harriet’s bravery and heroics. During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 enslaved people to freedom. Although Harriet Tubman never lived in Boston, she had connections to the city through other abolitionist friends. One friend […]
Read more
Entrance to Camp Hale denoted by the sign in the shape of the logo in front of a beautiful line of trees, established 1900
Meet Camp Hale’s New Director
Trish Fogarty : Trish joined the USES and Camp Hale team in January 2024. We’re excited to have her onboard and meet all the campers this summer at Camp Hale! Get to know Trish through the Q&A below: Q: Where are you from/where did you grow up?A: I grew up in Wilbraham, MA, but have lived […]
Read more
club48’s NEW 3D Printing Club
This January, a new and exciting activity opened up for the kids of club48: 3D Design and Printing. Previously working on photography during the fall with USES’ community partner and friend, Pete Johannsen, the kids switched over to this new field with him as the changing seasons left them with less daylight for photos. Pete, […]
Read more