SOJOURNER TRUTH: "Ain't I a Woman?"

It is neither Black History Month nor Women's Rights Month (is there such a month?), but I have come across a speech that has provoked my passions and if I don't blog about it at the moment, the "moment" will pass. While drinking my second cup of coffee on my precious day off, I put on the TV and my computer simultaneously. As I sailed through the mindless mess of daytime programs on TV, I came across something, for which I can not find a name or source, only that it is my cable company's "educational access" channel and was identified as: EDAC022 Sep 06 10:00am.
I call this kind of thing Synchronicity of My World and Blog World

The message I mean to relate here, by quoting part of a Speech given by Sojourner Truth in May 1851, at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, is that there is a thread that moves along carefully among all quests for freedom and equality; such is the connection between Abolition of Slavery and Women's Suffrage (and overall Women's Rights). When I heard Sojourner Truth's words today, this fact rang out clear and strong, perhaps in a way that had never before occurred to me. The speech was published by Frances Dana Gage, who had organized the Convention, as
her version of Truth's speech, "complete with crude Southern dialect in the April 23, 1863, issue of the New York Independent." I was about to "clarify" the speech in order to help the reader read it more easily. But, on second thought, I realized that Sojourner's speech says it so elolquently, it speaks for itself and can not possibly be made any clearer.

"Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin' out o' kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de nigger of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin' 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talkin' 'bout?

"Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber halps me into carriages, or ober mudpuddles, or gibs me any best place!"

And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked, "And ar'n't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! [And here she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power] " I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ar'n't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man -- when I could get it -- and bear de lash as well! And ar'n't' I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern *, and seen 'em mos' all sold off the slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ar'n't I a woman?

"Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?" "Intellect," whispered someone near. "Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do wid womin's rights or nigger's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?" And she pointed her significant finger, and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long and loud.

"Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wan't a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?" Rolling thunder couldn't have stilled that crowd, as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, "Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin' to do wid Him." Oh, what a rebuke that was to the little man.

Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother Eve, I cannot follow her through it all. It was pointed and witty, and solemn; eliciting at almost every sentence deafening applause; and she ended by asserting, "If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder [and she glanced her eye over the platform] ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let 'em." Long continued cheering greeted this. "Bleeged to ye for hearin' on me, and now ole Sojourner han't got nothin' more to say."

For those who may have had difficulty reading the speech as it was interpreted by Dana Gage, here is another version:

I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman's rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart -- why can't she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, -- for we can't take more than our pint'll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have woman's rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble. I can't read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.

Speech borrowed from an article from The Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek site.

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