Ain’t I A Woman?

PicturePhoto Courtesy of Randall Studio via Wikimedia Commons

As Women’s History Month ends, we want to take a moment to appreciate the immense and varied contributions of Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner Truth, was not only a former slave crusading for the end of slavery, but a suffragist committed to women’s issues and their right to vote. Truth was born into slavery in 1797 and escaped in 1826, beginning her work as a social reformer. Illiterate and with no formal education, she lectured based off of her personal experience as a black woman in the early 19th century. One such occasion was at the National Women’s Rights Convention held in 1851 in Akron, Ohio where she delivered her immortal speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Here she contrasts the different experiences of women, reminding attendees at the convention that each person’s struggle is a little different, but collectively they have the potential to change society:

“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.”


Learn more about Sojourner Truth: http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/sojourner_truth.html 

See Kerry Washington of ABC’s Scandal perform snippets of this lecture: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month/videos/aint-i-a-woman

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