By Gail Benjafield
Woman’s Day – falling every year in early March – is celebrated in many ways.
For the last several years, the members of the British Methodist Episcopal (B.M.E.) congregation in St. Catharines, Ontario have held an annual dinner in memory of one its founding members, Harriet Tubman. As most surely know, Tubman was a major conductor of the Underground Railroad, bringing many members of her family and friends to St. Catharines, in safety, and by stealth.
This Woman’s Day is special, because it is not only the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death, but is also the month in which she was born in 1822. She and fellow freedom fighters built Salem Chapel at 92 Geneva Street, with the help of noted philanthropists and abolitionists such as William Hamilton Merritt.
Tubman is arguably the most important St. Catharines woman we can call our own. She lived on North Street, from time to time, in the 1850’s with her father and brother, and many other family members. The most authoritative adult nonfiction book about her book on her life, both here in St. Catharines and in Maryland, is Dr. Kate Clifford Larson’s “Bound for the Promised Land”. Larson spoke to a packed Salem Chapel (the other name for the St. Catharines B. M. E. church) in January, a collaborative event that was hosted by both parishioners and the Historical Society of St. Catharines.
The annual dinner to celebrate both Tubman and Women’s Day is being held on Saturday March 9th, at 3 pm. Salem Chapel is at 92 Geneva Street. Representatives from the Niagara Black History organization, Central Ontario Network for Black History, St. Catharines Historical Society and dignitaries will attend. A dinner will follow downstairs at Salem Chapel. The dinner, to dine in or take out is $20.00 a plate and $12.00 for children under ten. The celebration itself is free to attendees.
The event will include the WomEnchant Chorus, (all women you might guess) led by noted conductor Laura Thomas.
So let’s be proud that we had such a remarkable woman in our midst for some years, a woman who has put St. Catharines on the map as one of the most important terminals for the Underground Railroad. Tubman chose to live here. Her larger family descendants live among us, and most importantly, we bask in the glory this distinct and distinguished woman [in the month of her birth and death], with enormous pride.
Mark your calendars and please join us at Salem Chapel, 92 Church St., St. Catharines, March 9th, at 3 PM.
Gail Benjafield is a Niagara, Ontario resident who has played a long and active role in preserving and promoting the rich history of this region.
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