Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Are You Ready For Truth?

This is a story from history that addresses race, women's rights, (and not just white women's rights), and the strength and ability to have a voice in a world where one grew up without one.

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Jane Hunt and Mary Ann M'Clintock organized the first Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. There, they established the Declaration of Sentiments which spelled out the desire for women to share the same rights that men held.

At that convention, Sojourner Truth, a well-known former slave who tirelessly campaigned to end slavery, gave a riveting speech, "Ain't I A Woman?," in which she dashed all thoughts that women were too dainty or not smart enough to vote.

Sojourner Truth's life story was the basis for all of her speeches. She relied on her experiences as a slave, a woman, and an African American to serve as the arguments for her crusades

Part of the fascination with Sojourner Truth in her own time was due to her physical presence. She stood close to six feet tall and was thin and very darkskinned. Her dress was often Quaker-like, and she always wore a turban headdress

The most often quoted speech by Sojourner Truth, the one by which she is best known today, was delivered at the second annual Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron on May 28, 1851. Although there has been some controversy about interpretation, I still think it is a great story.

Source: National Anti-Slavery Standard 2 May 1863: 4.
Sojourner Truth

By Mrs. F. D. Gage

"Well, chillen, what dar's so much racket dar must be som'ting out o'kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de South and de women at de Norf, all a-talking 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking 'bout? Dat man ober dar say dat woman needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to have de best place eberywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gives 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 she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing its tremendous muscular power.

"I have plowed 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 chillen, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard--and ar'n't' I a woman? Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head. What dis dey call it." "Intellect," whispered some one near. "Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do with woman's rights or niggers' 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 woman can't have as much rights as man, 'cause Christ wa'n'n't a woman. Whar did your Christ come from?"

Rolling thunder could not have stilled that crowd as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with outstretched arms and eye of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated,--

"Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had not'ing to do with him." Oh, what a rebuke she gave 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: "that if de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all her one lone, all dese togeder," and she glanced her eye over us, "ought to be able to turn it back, and git it right side up again, and now dey is asking to, de men better let 'em." (long and continued cheering). "Bleeged to ye for hearin' on me, and now ole Sojourner ha'n't got nothing more to say."

While I do not go along with the part about women owning a pint, while men own a quart, there's a lot to be said for her sheer courage in speaking her truth.


At 7:35 PM, Blogger Lew Scannon said...

I guess it does all come down to interpretation. It wasn't about men owning a quart and women owning a pint, but more about everybody getting what they need.But I could be wrong.

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff, Glenda. And what a name - Sojourner Truth! Ah, discrimination and stupidity go hand in hand and always, always favour the stupid discriminator. Strange that, isn't it!

At 1:47 AM, Blogger Grish said...

Interesting name!

At 4:18 AM, Blogger glenda said...

There is a passage in the Bible, in Psalms, I believe that talks about humans as being sojourners to the truth. She took her name from that passage.

At 5:40 AM, Blogger Mary said...


At 8:50 AM, Blogger JBlue said...

I think the part about the pint and the quart is her way of saying, "Hey, I'm not asking for much here, and you're an ass for withholding it." That's the way I've always interpreted it. Yeah, if you have a quart and you can't even give me a pint, that's crappy. Some Christian, some human being you are.

I love the way she uses humor in her speeches (another good one is "What Time of Night It Is," although the one you have here is by far the best and more riveting.) Her speech SEEMS sort of casual and off-the-cuff, but it's actually a very solid argument with some strong points. Hard to believe she couldn't read or write, eh?

She was a bit of a mystic (well, not just a bit, really) and I think she claimed that the name Sojourner Truth came to her in a vision.

As you can see, I really enjoyed this post. I had never read this particular version of the speech with the commentary of this eye witness. That's very cool.

A question that comes up with ST in the classroom is this: is the oral tradition literature? Does something have to be written down to be considered literature? Do you have to physically write it yourself? You can get a good discussion going with that alone.

Thanks, Glenda!

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

Thank you for this post. Wonderful.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger glenda said...

ah, I have learned something new, to see this a new way. Thank you, Lew and JuBlu, I believe you are right.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger JBlue said...

I do enjoy this kind of discussion. You made my day.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Writer Mom said...


Came here from The Fat Lady Sings, and I REALLY needed to read this tonight.
Just wonderful.
*I'm sure she didn't really go for the pint/quart comparison, either, but she sure still made her point.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous karena said...

Beautiful. I came here to from Fat Lady Sings. God we need these stories now, we need to see the beauty and wisdom and struggles of those who helped transform the insanity. We need these voices now. Thanks for the post.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

I came here three from TFLS, and it was worth the ride! Thank you for putting that up. I will go and read some more about her.

At 4:57 AM, Blogger glenda said...

You are welcome, my friends. This lady is a shining example of courage and Truth, and lived up to her chosen name. There are so many more who were never recorded.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Wow, very inspirational. Thank you for sharing. I really want to learn more about her.

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