Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland in the early 1820s. As a former slave, she suffered a traumatic head wound when a slave owner threw a metal object at another slave and hit her instead. This physical wound caused her epilepsy, dizziness, and hypersomnia.
In 1849, Tubman managed to escape to freedom and helped others gain their freedom as a “conductor" of the Underground Railroad. Through the Underground Railroad, she served as a nurse for the Union Army, a Union spy and scout, and a respected guerrilla operative during the Civil War. She is the first African American to serve in the army.
Tubman participated in various antislavery efforts. Notably, she returned to the South multiple times to help slaves escape, following the motto “my people must go free.” Despite being disabled due to her physical injury, her knowledge and resilience were invaluable as a nurse, scout, and spy during the Civil War. She continued to advocate for women’s suffrage, care for the injured, and free hundreds of black slaves.
Eliza Suggs was born in Illinois in 1876 to former slaves. From birth, she was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, better known as Brittle Bone disease, and grew only to 33 inches tall. She refused to be displayed as a museum “oddity” despite being offered hefty sums of money.
Unlike most black women at the time, Suggs received an education. A few family friends donated a chair that could transport her, and assisted with her mobility at school. She was fortunate to receive the same education as her abled siblings and peers.
Suggs was involved in the Temperance movement, traveling the United States with her father before his death. Afterward, she became an independent Temperance activist, attending various conferences, camp meetings, and church services to spread the word about her life and sufferings. She published her book, Shadows and Sunshine, which documented her life as a disabled black woman and her family’s life as slaves.
Tammy Duckworth was born on March 12, 1968. She has been a member of the Democratic Party as a US Senator from Illinois since January 3, 2017. Formerly, she represented Illinois's 8th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She pioneers change by being the first Asian-American Congressman from Illinois, the first disabled woman ever elected to the House of Representatives and the first Thai Congress member.
In addition, Duckworth was an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, where she lost her right leg near the hip and left leg below the knee due to rocket-propelled grenades fired by Iraqi insurgents. Despite her disability, she is a Purple Heart recipient, former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as appointed by President Obama, and a firm activist for both LGBTQ and reproductive rights.
As a disabled war veteran, Duckworth helped create tax credits for employers that hire Veterans, established the first 24/7 Veterans crisis hotline, and developed innovative programs to improve Veterans’ access to housing and health care.