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

Herman of Alaska vs. Harriet Tubman

  • Harriet Tubman (61%, 4,235 Votes)
  • Herman of Alaska (39%, 2,752 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,987

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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. Harriet Tubman is unbeatable, but I was touched by Herman's story and gave him my vote. I might also have been moved to do so after seeing his South Parkish doll likeness in the wonderfully kitschy video.

  2. "Also, you should go to confession," writes the SEC. Our local paper yesterday carried photos of RC priests hearing confessions outdoors, while maintaining 6 feet of distance between themselves and the penitents. I'm not sure the priests of my Episcopal church are even making appointments to hear confessions; I doubt it.

  3. I love both of these folks. Great kitsch for both, but not wanting to touch cash right now swayed my vote toward Herman. As noted, faced with a serious epidemic, instead of becoming more the hermit, he reacted by tending to the sick and helpless, without thoughts for his own health. Quietly.

  4. Herman was a true Saint of the Orthodox Christian Church. He devoted his life to the work of God ministering to those in Alaska. Harriet was a social reformer. Is this Lent madness about Saints ? I highly respect Harriet’s work in freeing her people. I voted for Herman because this is LENT and he is a recognized Saint in the Christian Faith

    1. But when it comes down to it, we're all saints (lower case "s"). In order to qualify as a Lent Madness competitor, you have to have a feast day, and Harriet therefore qualifies. That being said, Herman and I appreciate your support.

  5. I was tempted to vote for Herman today, since he's the clear underdog at this point in the day and I suspect Harriet is the one who will advance. But in the end I was called to click the box for Harriet. Both of these saints are well deserving of the Golden Halo, but since only one can advance today, I went with Harriet.

  6. BTW, I love the cover of "North Star - St. Herman of Alaska," that shows him with a reindeer and an indigenous child. Very tender feelings are evoked by that art.

  7. In honor of all the doctors, nurses and clergy ministering to the sick during thus tone of plague my vote goes for Herman.

  8. So I know this round is all about the kitsch, I love it. But I am still trying to see where Harriet was motivated by her love for Jesus, that she fought to overcome a great evil is accepted but where is there a demonstration of her devotion to God?

    1. Isn’t it enough that she saved 70 people from the evils of slavery , that she was willing to lay down her life for others? Saints are stained glass windows to God. They show us what God’s love is like. They don't have to pass a theology test.

      1. Loved the video and music!! LoveHerman. Fingers crossed. We had a visiting priest from North of Fairbanks stand in for our priest who had a fall. Therefore feeling a real Texas-Alaska connection!

      2. Harriet had messages from God, she said, during her seizures, that told her to do what she did. She sang “Go Down Moses” and other spirituals as signals to slaves to follow her. There’s plenty of religion in her life!

    2. I'm grateful to the Rev. Susan Kennard, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston, TX, for teaching us in Adult Forum about several ways to salvation, one of these being Matthew 25:40, the passage about caring for "the least of these." I think it's likely that Harriet was familiar with this passage, and she certainly lived it.

  9. I know Harriet Tubman will probably win, and she is worthy in so many ways. But I voted for Herman of Alaska because I lived in Alaska for a year and fell in love with the place. Thanks for helping me to learn about him; he will forever have a special place in my heart.

  10. St. Herman got my vote. A saint for this time -tending to the sick without regard for his safety. A saint for all times - gently and lovingly bringing the Good News of God in Christ to the people of Alaska.

  11. This was an even, and therefore tough, match. All honor to St. Herman for caring for the sick without considering his own welfare. May he add his prayers to ours for all first responders. I finally voted for Harriet because, as far as I know, she was not a member of a denomination that confers sainthood. Herman was, and he already has his nimbus, aka golden halo, and this is her chance to get hers.

  12. I voted for humble Herman, a man lost in the Alaskan wilderness, a symbol of the early influence of Russia on the future state, someone who brought not only Orthodoxy but practical skills to the Alaska natives. I always vote for the saint doing the most good. This is not to say that Harriet's practical skills were deficient. But Harriet has become a commercial enterprise. Her face on the $20 bill would be the height or the nadir of her kitsch collection.
    I am always a bit suspicious of someone who has so much attention. She permeates our culture--admittedly an attempt to right the vast wrongs done to her ancestors--movies, scented candles, etc. I'll admit that the Herman t-shirt is an affront to my sense of appropriate attire, but Harriet beats Herman by a long shot in the souvenir trade. So, continuing my admiration for the underdog and knowing my vote, like one for Bernie Sanders will only be a blip on the scorecard, Herman is my saint for today.

    1. ME AGAIN. By the way, I recommend Ta-Nahesi Coates' Water Dancer as a terrific book with a down to earth portrayal of "Moses," aka "Harriet."

  13. This one was a tough one for me. As far as I’m concerned they’re both Golden Halos for me.

  14. Herman gets my vote. I am reading Michener’s Alaska with the hope my trip will not be cancelled. There is a character in the novel that must be based on St Herman. Go Herman you deserve a win because of the weather and terrain conditions of Alaska. Harriet is a winner also but her weather and terrain conditions were a picnic compared to Herman.

  15. You had a great time, Herman. Good to have met you. But I've been an enamoured fan of Harriet since I was a wee tyke. Harriet for the win!

    1. While it’s obvious Harriet will win, my choice is the quiet man with silent witness. Go Herman!

  16. Harriet has always been my choice for the GOLDEN HALO!
    Hard to keep our thoughts on this LENTON MADNESS, with all the madness around our world right now, please be safe, keep your 6 ft (2 meters) from each other! had to give metric and non metric for those still in the dark ages! Sorry, not!

  17. Harriet Tubman was a great woman and a great Christian, but I voted for Herman of Alaska today (also a worthy saint), simply because I found the whole tone of today's blog about Harriet silly, superficial and disagreeable!

  18. In our turbulent times, the steady work of the quiet, steady health care worker who ministers to the frightened and sick coronavirus victims gives us a sign of compassion so needed. Harriet Tubman is a great saint, but fir me, today, the unsung, brave, compassionate. competent health worker that Herman demonstrated is my comfort.

  19. Let's go ladies to the Final 4, beginning w/Harriet, however I liked Herman's kitchen & icons better.

  20. Difficult choice. I often like to vote for the saint I did not and would not know about if not for Lent Madness, so today I voted for Herman (and also went online and ordered an icon of him, so I now have my own Herman kitsch on the way). I won't be disappointed when Harriet wins, or if she goes the Madness distance, but thank you for introducing Herman to a wider audience.

  21. So hard today, pitting two of my favorites against each other. As much as I like St. Herman in my heart of hearts, I had to go with Harriet.

  22. I voted for Herman, for this motley of reasons:

    We are in the midst of an epidemic, recalling Herman’s example in caring for the sick and dying.

    I feel like a hermit these days.

    “Hermano” and “hermana” happen to mean “brother” and “sister” in Spanish. I always wished I had a sibling, and we all especially need to model our sister- and brotherhood in these times. (In reality “Herman” is a bellicose Germanic name meaning “army man”; so the saint beat even his own name into a ploughshare.)

    He was, it seems, a person so divinely transparent that to know him would have been as close as mortals could come to seeing the face of God.

  23. It can’t be stressed enough that Herman confronted the Russian government and traders in defense of the native peoples here as well as his ministry to them. Not something commonly done.
    I was mildly distraught to see that St. Herman’s Orthodox Church here in the interior of Alaska, the 49th state, was not included. http://www.sthermanchurch.org. A little unassuming building on Goldstream Road in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

    1. And if you check out the pictures, the outside ones were taken in summer. There is at least 3-4 feet of snow remaining out of the 6 feet received season to date.

    2. Sigh....! I am an ardent proponent of St Herman of Alaska and have dreaded this fateful matchup. Herman is a most unique and wonderful saint. The history of Russian and American colonialism in Alaska is deeply horrific and shameful and St Herman casts a compelling shadow of godliness and goodness on that landscape. (The involvement of the British and the Spanish was brief and superficial and thus they didn’t have time to behave in an exploitive fashion...)
      The dear Aleuts, known for their peacefulness and industriousness, were conscripted into brutal service and forced to hunt fur seals to near extinction. (So devastating was the Russian fur seal trade that only relatively recently has the fur seal lost its endangered or threatened status.) This treatment, combined with the exposure to European diseases led to near extermination of the Aleut people.
      Enter Herman - a servant of God who manages to speak truth to power and got results. He served the “least of these” at the farthest ends of the earth. And, he made cookies for all the kids. He tended the ill, talked with unhappy couples late into the night, and worked for the spiritual growth of his flock. Generations of Alaskans and beyond remember Herman with intense gratitude and love. Herman lived a long time ago, but it feels like he just left us. Recently, I shared with my friend, a Tlingit Russian Orthodox congregant, that St Herman was doing quite well in Lent Madness. Upon hearing that he proudly announced that he had served as an altar boy at Herman’s Canonization service where he stood for 10 hours. He said it was a highlight in his life. Another friend’s son is a young Russian Orthodox priest. Once he was given the task of carrying St Herman’s icon from Sitka to the east coast for restoration work. Their family was so humbled and awestruck by the honor of schlepping St Herman out of Alaska for his first time. His icons are beautiful and depict his personality perfectly! One day, God willing, I will get to Spruce Island to check in with dear St Herman.
      I couldn’t be more pleased that Lent Madness has introduced this lovely saint to the Community.
      Congratulations to Harriet Tubman, and I so hope to enjoy coffee in your celebratory mug!

  24. I knew before I even cast my vote I was going to be lagging behind. Look, I love Harriet Tubman as much as the next history geek, but when I look around at what we are living through right now, and then I realize Herman was tending to sick 100 years ago in another pandemic, it is hard not to let that tug at your heart and cast your vote for one extraordinary saint. He set the perfect example for our "Hermans" on today's front lines. Go Herman!

  25. Coming late to the voting today so will not add to the chastisement of Ms. Rae regarding the 49th. . . Lent Madness excitement can cause many a misspeak. I'm on board with Harriet's other supporters though Herman is certainly a timely choice for our times. (and God bless St. James congregation! They even included Wonderwoman, which Ms. Tubman surely is! LOL)

  26. Please make a correction to Herman of Alaska. You mentioned he is from the 50th state, which he is not. Alaska is the 49th state, while Hawai'i, even though illegally annexed by the US, is the 50th state in the United States.