Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Tuesday Poem: Sojourner Truth - Ain't I a Woman?

Delivered at the Women's Convention, Ohio, 1851


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


I thought today we needed something optimistic and inspirational.  I'm not posting this from a Feminist perspective, but as an example of Hope in the face of what look like insurmountable odds.

Who could have thought back in 1851 that there could be equal rights for men and women, people of colour and people with skins of a different shade?  It took a very long time to win it, but those later victories were built on the efforts and the rhetoric of activists like Sojourner Truth.  She was an ex-slave and Christian convert, born into slavery as Belle Baumfree.  She escaped from her owner in 1826 with an infant daughter, living with protectors in New York State where limited emancipation was given in 1827.  She changed her name when she became a member of the Evangelical movement. Sojourner is most famous for winning a court case against her former owner who had sold one of her children illegally to a plantation in Alabama.  She was the first black woman to win a case against a white man. Her life didn't get much easier.  When a man, a Christian evangelist she kept house for, died she was accused of poisoning him, but was acquitted of the crime.

We have never needed more of Sojourner Truth's courage and persistence than we do today.




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