In celebration of International Women's Day I chose to honor Isabella Baumfree, better known as Sojourner Truth. There is an excellent biography of her life, the hardships of being bought and sold in slavery in New York, abuse of her body, and her rising above it to become a renown speaker for women's rights and other social issues that, although were relevant in the early 1800's, are still relevant today.
I chose to post her famous speech, given in Akron, Ohio at an 1851 Women's Convention. It's amazing to me that almost 160 years later, women are still doing battle for equality. In the year that America has elected a black president, black women are still, along with their white sisters, looking for the time when we are no longer regarded as a man's property.
"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.
Isabella Baumfree, you said it oh so well. Thank you.
Other sites with information about Sojourner Truth:
Sojourner Truth Institute
Sojourner Truth - Stamp on Black History profile
Sojourner Truth - Memorial Statue Project in Florence, Massachusetts
Sojourner Truth - Battle Creek Historical Society
"Ain't I a Woman?" Speech - Fordham University
"Ain't I a Woman?" - speech and history of, on About.com
"Keeping the Thing Going While Things are Stirring" - speech delivered at the American Equal Rights Association in 1867
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth - online text of her autobiography, at A Celebration of Women Writers
Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl - Article by Harriet Beecher Stowe, appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1863
Women and Families in Slavery - links to essays and first-hand accounts and letters about the lives of female slaves
"Sojourner Truth will Become the First Black Woman Honored with a Bust in the U.S. Capitol"