AMERICAN SHADOW HISTORY
Ain't I a Woman?
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in the late 1790’s to a slave holder in the North. He broke his promise to let her go free when slavery was abolished in the North, so Isabella ran away, later successfully suing her former master for the release of her son. Ms. Baumfree became a Christian and changed her name to Sojourner Truth, accepting the evangelistic ministry that she believed she was called to.
She became well recognized and highly admired as part of the women’s suffrage, abolitionists, and voting rights for all movements. Her activism in the women’s movement brought her to the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, where learned men and women met to present scientific, psychological and scholarly reasons for and against women’s suffrage.
Sojourner was not invited to speak at this convention,
as it was felt that her limited logic would be too simple against the brilliant men and women scheduled to present their erudite pro and con presentations. After everyone who was slated to speak finished, Sojourner went to the podium and asked for permission to speak a few words. The chair of the convention hesitated for a moment, but not being willing to embarrass Sojourner, recognized her. This is the "gist" of her speech (note: there are more than one version). Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention
in Akron, Ohio.
By SOJOURNER TRUTH
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the White men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages or over mud-puddles or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?
Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?
I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or Negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From GOD… and… from a WOMAN!
Man! Where is Your Part?
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it; the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
Sojourner Truth walked away from the podium and once again, into history, as having delivered the most impactful argument at the convention.