Sojourner Truth - She Persisted and Preached the Truth to All Men and Women

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It is International Women’s Day! It is a day to celebrate women, globally. We recognize the continued struggle that women face for justice, freedom and equality, we support women who are leading the way to make the world a better place for our young girls, and we acknowledge our pioneers. Often the struggles and efforts of women of color are overlooked in the movement, so today, I am shining the spotlight on Sojourner Truth who made the most powerful speech that I have heard in support of equality for women. The speech was made at the Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio in 1852. 

To know the history of Sojourner Truth is to know the history of the struggles of women, in particular, women of color. Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree) was born in 1797 and is known as an abolitionist and women's rights activist. She renamed herself "Sojourner," because she heard this name whispered to her from God. She made her last name "Truth" to signify that she should preach nothing but truth to all men and women. She spent her life spreading her powerful truth and persisted even when many doors were closed to her. During the Civil War, she helped recruit black troops for the Union Army and tried to secure federal land grants for former slaves. She spent the mid 1800s traveling the country championing the rights of former slaves and demonstrating the power of the voice of a woman and the strength of a woman. She met with Presidents and leaders who she believed could support her human rights causes. In 1872, she attempted to vote in the presidential election, but was turned away at the Battle Creek polling place. Yet, Sojourner Truth persisted and we must continue to persist. The fight for women is the fight for our humanity. Read more about her life story at sojourner.com. I am forever moved by her epic speech, Ain’t I a Woman.

AIN’T I A WOMAN
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 ploughed 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 a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

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
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Sojourner Truth

She Persisted and Preached the Truth to All Men and Women


Story credit to sojourner.com for details of her life story, photo from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Poem Copyright © Sojourner Truth, 1852 & Erlene Stetson. Her speech was given at the Women's rights Convention in Akron Ohio.