Herman of Alaska vs. Harriet Tubman

And then there were eight. Over the course of the past several weeks, we have successfully narrowed the field from 32 saints to eight. One of these holy people will be crowned with the coveted 2020 Golden Halo: Herman of Alaska, Harriet Tubman, Hildegard of Bingen, Brother Lawrence, Margaret of Castello, Joanna the Myrrhbearer, Joseph, or Elizabeth Fry. What a fascinating collection of holy women and men!

In yesterday's saintly action, Elizabeth Fry snagged the last spot by upsetting Clare of Assisi -- trouncing might be an appropriate word, actually -- 75% to 25%.

The Elate Eight is also known the world over as the Round of Saintly Kitsch. After basic biographies, quirks and quotes, what else could there be? To kick things off, Herman of Alaska faces Harriet Tubman. To get to this point, Herman defeated Elizabeth of Hungary and Thomas More, while Harriet took down Julie Billiart and James Solomon Russell. To read up on these earlier matches, click the Bracket tab and scroll down.

In case you missed yesterday's episode of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Also, you should go to confession.

Herman of Alaska
Herman of Alaska was a simple man, small in stature, devoted to God, and dedicated to ministering to others. He was well-known for championing the lives and rights of the Aleuts of Alaska, even against the powerful Russian traders and government. Faced with a serious epidemic, he reacted by tending to the sick and helpless, without thoughts for his own health.

His stamp on society may not be widely known, but his spiritual footprint is acclaimed in many ways. A Russian Orthodox monk, his image is emblazoned on icons, woodcuts, cards, talismans, and stained-glass windows. Herman’s ministry is deftly reflected in each image – kindly and saintly, mostly set against a background featuring the vastness of the Alaskan frontier with snow-covered mountains, tall trees, and Indigenous peoples.

But this quiet man of silent witness made a lasting mark on the landscape of the 50th State as well as the Russian Orthodox Church. Herman, known as the Wonderworker of All America, was the first saint to be canonized by the Orthodox Church in America.

A YouTube film, Relics of St Herman of Alaska, relays the story of Herman, featuring firsthand memories of his contributions. A few books tell his life, such as: Herman: A Wilderness Saint; North Star: St Herman of Alaska; Father Herman: Alaska’s Saint.

You can sing a hymn to Herman: O venerable Herman, ascetic of the northern wilderness, and gracious advocate for all the world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith and good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America, entreat Christ God that He save our souls.

The few churches and buildings named in his honor truly reflect him: simple, not elaborate, steady and functional. There are St. Herman’s churches in Stafford, VA, Glen Mills, PA, and Sunnyvale, CA. A stained-glass window graces the chapel at the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension in Resaca, GA.

St. Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary is aptly located in Kodiak, AK, the place where he dedicated his life’s work. On the seminary website: Father Herman was a monk from Valaam Monastery in northwestern Russia and original member of the first missionary team to North America. He devoted his life and work to the propagation of the Faith in the Kodiak Archipelago. Father Herman’s ministry included beginning a school for orphaned children on Spruce Island. Not only did Father Herman devote hours instilling the basic principles of the Orthodox Christian Faith, he taught agricultural techniques, carpentry skills, and other practical craftsmanship.

Herman of Alaska – a simple man, called by God to tend to the Native Americans, to the sick during epidemics, to children and families. He ministered and he witnessed, without complaint, without remorse, without doubts.







— Neva Rae Fox

Harriet Tubman

If you do a search for Harriet Tubman on the internet, you will find so many the things. And, if you’re lucky to live in Harlem near W 122ndand Frederick Douglass Blvd. (well, at least for a bit), then you know Harriet is very close by (and, she’s also a Pokégym for those of you who play Pokémon go like me).

I love that one of the searches resulted in this book that I have ordered and whose title is one I could associate with a bunch of my friends: She Came To Slay! “Yaaaaassss!” you would have heard me exclaim when I found it. There are so many books and websites on her life, but this title caught my eye.

There are a bunch of places named after Ms. Tubman so I decided to check on my maps which was the closest to me. Turns out it is Harriet Tubman Charter school in New Orleans. Their website’s latest news proudly shares: “Harriet Tubman Outperforming State Growing Scholars Toward Mastery.” I am sure they are!

There have been several films and movies about Tubman’s life and the latest one is Harriet which received critical acclaim and two Oscar nominations including one for the original song “Stand Up” co-written by Union Theological Seminary student Joshua Brian Campbell.

Y’all heard about the $20 bill, right? Well, that’s one of my favorite Harriet items that I am probably not going to buy – the stamp that makes any $20 bill a Tubman bill! It looks so cool, but, I’m not trying to touch cash right now.

If you like to light candles while you pray, there are some cool Harriet candles, like this queen Harriet one. There is a scented candle that described the scent as “an intoxicating fragrance” that include “notes of honeyed mimosa and soft herbal mint supported by subtle woody and musk facets.” Nah, I couldn’t.




If you would rather be able to carry Harriet around, there are a bunch of dolls you can get, but this string key chain one that seems like she could unravel any second is my favorite because we know she never will.

Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY is the resting place for our beloved hero Harriet Tubman. And, apparently people love leaving all kinds of things there. This, of course, is my favorite because yes, like Jesus is my homeboy (remember those t-shirts? I still have one), I believe that Tubman is truly our homegirl!

-- Sandra Montes

[poll id="294"]


St Herman’s orphanage circa 1903 Kodiak AK
Woodcut: https://christthesavioroca.org/stherman

Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, Resaca GA


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120 comments on “Herman of Alaska vs. Harriet Tubman”

    1. This is great! Like those overly dramatic movie trailers that usually start out with someone growling, "In a world..." while passionate orchestral music crashes and swells in the background. Thanks for a good laugh.

    2. I LOVE this! Great trailer, great painting on the dolls, and so perfect on this, the first day of Kitschmas!

    3. Dramatic indeed! Love it! And y'all are in the hometown of one of my best friends.

      I was somewhat anticipating a visual "showdown" of the first rounds with the winners dramatically rising up above their competition or the one who didn't make it "bowing out" (falling down forward)... and/or a visual bracket with the "winners" advancing towards the center. But that's how I think. Perhaps inspiration for something in the future?

      The peg dolls are fabulous!

    4. How exciting. Not knowing who to vote for - how can you decide between too such wonderful saints - I chose Herman based on his peg doll. Thank you!

    5. Painting Lent Madness saints--what a good idea! And the video of "Steal Away" performed by Cantus was just beautiful!

      Harriet is/was amazing and certainly deserves the Golden Halo, but I went with Herman. I've voted for him since the beginning.

    6. You are all very, very kind. We are flattered that you enjoyed the fun, and as many mentioned - kitschy -video! We are very grateful for Lent Madness during this season - it is both an encouragement to live like the saints, and also, well, just a lot of fun. 🙂

    7. Fabulous job, everyone! From the painting artists to the musical artist to the video artist, I would be inspired to learn more if I wasn’t already a participant in Lent Madness!

  1. Poor Herman, he never had a chance. Tubman may even beat Jesus's earthly dad. She's a juggernaut.

    1. This match up seems like a championship match. It was a very hard decision, and it's a close vote. Thank you to all who write about the saints and share their knowledge!

  2. Herman is a hero for our times -- caring for all during an epidemic, not caring about his own health. Herman would be busy today on the front lines of what we are facing. Go Herman!

      1. Same here. I have no doubt Harriet will win, but I love Herman's kitsch. And he feels like the right saint for these times when so many - from healthcare workers to the folks stocking grocery shelves and driving delivery vans - are putting themselves at risk for the rest of us.

        1. I feel the same way, Barbara. I voted for him earlier and I simply had to vote for Herman today especially after listening to the news. I also loved his peg doll, lol!

  3. One of my sons took me on a glorious tripe to Alaska a couple of years ago. In honor that grand brave land, it's Herman for me.

    1. This is amazing! I can imagine being there and wanting to reach to take her hand.

      1. Agree--this is truly amazing! Thanks much for sharing. We'd must put Dorchester County on our road trip list for when we dare do such things again.

  4. Much as I admire Herman of Alaska, Harriet Tubman is someone I've admired for decades. May her example continue to inspire us in today's difficult times. "Follow the drinking gourd!"

  5. It's a foregone conclusion that Harriet will win the golden Halo. Soon as I saw the brackets, I knew she would go all the way.

  6. Since Cape May’s Harriet Tubman legacy is only 2 counties away here in South Jersey I feel its important to support her.

  7. Aside from Steven’s wonderful video, Herman didn’t offer much in the krucial kitsch kompetition. It’s a little like swimsuit for beauty queens....
    Harriet, now, well, just look at it all! She carries on!

  8. It was a difficult decision for me to make. Both of these saints of God are worthy of the golden halo. More importantly, they are worthy of our emulation. I voted for Herman because he is not as well know at Harriet, and I thought more people should know about him.

  9. This was more difficult than most for me. Both are worthy of the Golden Halo, but Harriet gets my vote.

  10. In honor of all those on the front lines caring for the sick during this pandemic I voted for Herman. Any other time O would have voted for Harriet hands down, but not today.

  11. Even though I was tempted to vote for Herman because of his caring for the sick during an epidemic is a shining example now and reflects how health care workers are putting themselves at risk, I voted for Harriet because of her risking her life to save her fellow slaves.

  12. Voted for Harriet. Just a function of what media exposure can accomplish? Who would be our president if “The Apprentice” never aired? Herman should be made patron saint of all our medical personnel who are risking their lives to care for Covid 19 victims. I know they have several but could always use another. I was moved by the story of the 10 year old boy who improvised a mask for his nurse mom when he heard there was a shortage. Put him in next years Madness. Surely we can all do something

  13. I was very disappointed that Harriet’s bio was all about “stuff” and nothing about her extraordinary life and her commitment to God. If I didn’t know much about Harriet Tubman I would be wondering why she was included in Lenten Madness. Herman’s bio reveals so much about his good works and the life he lived. Harriet’s bio makes her seem like a souvenir.

    1. It's the Elate Eight--the round of Saintly Kitsch. That's the way it's supposed to roll. Previous rounds (and upcoming rounds, should she prevail) will be about her life, faith, and works.

    2. Paige, good observation, the writeup in the third round is a supplement to the main bio (first round) and the quotes from the saint that are offered in the second round. The third round, which started today and will go through Thursday, is light relief -- in this round the contributors find and share a selection of kitsch associated with the saint. As you can imagine, it's easier to find popular art for some saints than for others.

      To learn more about Herman, and to read the original writeup for Harriet, I would advise going to the first round bios. Herman was on March 3, Harriet on March 13.

      Hope that puts today's write-ups in perspective!

  14. Herman received no recognition in his life, and could have been thrown out of his Orthodox Church for bringing up how awful they were being to indiginouse people. Harriet is one of my favorite people, but today, go Herman!

  15. I almost couldn't find the voting buttons amidst all of today's kitsch. Can't beat the Orthodox for icons. Sandra, thank you for pointing out the stamp for putting Harriet on the $20 bill; I have to go "get me one of them." I fear today's vote might be a "runaway train," but I stayed true to Herman. "Joy of America" versus "Homegirl." There is always a need for agricultural techniques and carpentry skills, and tending to the sick in time of illness. Quiet arts of sustaining human community. For any interested in the story behind that Harlem statue, here's the link. Those strange things trailing her are the "roots of slavery," which she is pulling up.

  16. Treat for Gregory of Ravenna: Gregory, you asked for a cocktail with rum. This one is thematically appropriate for today's round; it's the Boukman Daiquiri, thanks to Mr. Death. The barman who created it notes: "Boukman Dutty was a slave who helped launch the Haitian Revolution. Using rum over cognac is my nod to the French getting out of the colony."
    1 1/2 oz. Barbancourt white rum
    1/2 oz. Hine H. cognac
    3/4 oz. lime juice
    1/2 oz. cinnamon bark syrup
    Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe glass. No ice.

    Cinnamon syrup: in a saucepan, muddle 1 oz. of cassia cinnamon sticks until broken into shards. Add 2 c. water and 2 c. superfine sugar. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand overnight. Strain through cheesecloth-lined sieve. (Basically you're making a flavored simple syrup.)
    A toast: to the end of all forms of slavery!

  17. While this observation will not impact the voting, do feel the need to correct a mistake in the write up on Herman today. Alaska is the 49th state. Hawaii is the 50th state. Keep on voting!

  18. Umm...Alaska is the 49th state. Did any of you learn

    "Hawaii, we welcome you
    to Mainland, red, white and blue...
    We sing, 'Aloha' to you a far
    Hawaii, our flag's new star
    We greet you, our 50th state,
    our western pacific date..."?

    Paige, this is the the round of Saintly Kitsch; it is supposed to be tongue in cheek.
    Previous rounds had what you were mentioning.

    SEC, keep up the good work(s)!

    1. Was it Jack Paar who joked to the Hawaiians: "You're the only state to be admitted to the union in your underwear"?

      1. On that note, I was glad to see Toni Cheshire's suggestion of a Texas-Alaska connection above; there was a joke where Alaska said to Texas: "if you dont stop bragging' about how big you are, well cut Alaska in half and then you'll be the 3rd latest state!

  19. We lived in Kodiak from 1970-1972. We attended St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church. My husband was confirmed there and my 2nd son was Baptized there. And I never heard of St. Herman! So today he gets my vote.

  20. Harriet Tubman is a principal character in Ta-Nehisi Coates's fantastic novel "The Water Dancer". Read about it in his Fresh Air interview (https://tinyurl.com/roaclt3), and then go buy and read the book. But vote here first.