“So you’re the little lady who started this great war!” said President Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1862 when he finally met Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the blockbuster antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But Lincoln might just have well have been talking to and about Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on America’s Underground Railroad. Both women’s extraordinary activism advanced the fight against slavery and edged this country closer to the Civil War.

Richard Bell is a professor of history at the University of Maryland. He is the author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home. He is the recipient of more than a dozen teaching awards and the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.