Sojourner Truth, " Ain't I A Woman? ", 6 Feet Of All Our Truths

JPK Huson 1863

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sojourner book pic.jpg

Sojourner's portrait from her 1853 book by Olive Gilbert, forward by Harriet Beecher Stowe, " Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Northern Slave "

Sojourner Truth is a huge reason the later women's rights movement has never violently interested me. Her most famous speech " Ain't I a Woman ? " was plowed right over when former abolitionists Cady and Anthony threw their black supporters under the bus. Ever heard of Lucy Stone? Of course not. They pitched her under the same bus- " Equal rights ", post war, remained her mantra, too. We all vote or no one voted, was Lucy Stone's position- I wasn't around but since it's where I'd have stood, have not been able to cheer much for Susan B. Any photos of black suffragettes? Huh.

Here's a small example of what she may have been up against there- pouring over early Harper's, around the same time as the famous " Ain't I A Woman " speech, a white, hugely educated ( author said so ) woman published a lengthy, women's rights article - not a word about enslaved- but included the words " Anglo-Saxon ". Long on equal to men and with this hysterical yet quite serious illustration, showing how women ( white ones ) could smoke and lounge and wear pants with the best of them. guess the dog indicates some male territory of which we were unaware....... so the split was very real.
sojourner frm hrpers.JPG



Of course, her approach as a women's rights advocate endeared her to exactly no one who wished to be photographed fashionably dressed while being hauled off to prison "What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women's rights?" Don't you love her?

A previous thread on Sojourner Truth devolved into sordid mayhem. For MLK Day, resolved to do her as much justice as her Quaker cap deserves. Brass Napoleon, an Oberlin docent, was the first poster on the old thread. If we still had Brass, I'd ask him to please direct me to the best information Oberlin has. Hard to limp along without Brass Napoleon these days.

Let's see, ' sold ' ( in quotes because I'll never agree anyone was sold- owning a human was a made-up concept ) 4 times, Isabella, born 1797, was an Ulster County, New York enslaved, from Col. Hardenbergh's estate. Married husband Thomas, 5 children, lost one, poor thing- " emancipated from bodily servitude by the state of New York , 1828 ", carrying her youngest, Sophia. Note her lack of surname?

1826, free, in NYC. By 1843 we see her again, a 6 foot tall, intimidating, fearless woman self named Sojourner- one who travels, Truth, which was her stated intention. Traveling to tell The Truth. Picking a link with a further link, for more. Long threads are a snore but really cannot stress how important Sojourner Truth was to abolitionist causes and women's rights.
http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Archive/LegacyOfFaith.htm

Little note- during her rise to genuine fame as an abolitionist, Sojourner had some high profile critics. Another famous name who disliked her - but for her home spun, plain-spoken persona , was Frederick Douglas. It's tough, both ways but annoying. He'd worked awfully hard and was working harder, getting rid of the nonsense all about how one's skin color had a thing to do with literacy, education or intelligence. Polished? Douglas would have dismissed GQ as tacky. Quite a guy. Sojourner was Quaker plain, plain-spoken and out spoken. Quite a woman.

It's tough, picking a website which will direct anyone interested to Sojourner's ' complete bio '. Various books on her which would be helpful, oldest the best. Obviously her 1853 narrative does not include the war or later years. I do adore this site. Then these Hathi books.
http://sojournertruthmemorial.org/sojourner-truth/her-words/

Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Northern Slave 1853
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015071140142;view=1up;seq=1
Sojourner Truth, God's Faithful Pilgrim 1938
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015062112548;view=1up;seq=9
Narrative, Olive Gilbert's book, updated 1878
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t9w094m0g;view=1up;seq=11

The reason many of her photos have the words " I sell the shadow to support the substance " scrolled across the bottom is, she supported her work, ferociously speaking out as an abolitionist and women's rights supporter selling these photos. Kinda cool.
sojourner words.JPG


Love to have been at Ohio's Women's Right's Convention- May 28th, 1851. . "I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?" And "And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?" (Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851)

I like Francis Gage, recounting from a distance, to be sure- 1863. Speech was not initially called the ' Ain't I a Woman ' speech, just her, doing what she did. Made some women nervous, thinking she'd ( gasp ) talk about abolition, when she got up. Sojourner spoke of whatever on earth she wished to. Always. In a Dutch accent- make no mistake. A Northern held woman, not Southern, remember.

" 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."

Obliged to you, Ms. Truth. Thank you.
 

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Ever heard of Lucy Stone? Of course not. They pitched her under the same bus- " Equal rights ", post war, remained her mantra, too. We all vote or no one voted, was Lucy Stone's position
Sojourner Truth commented on this very thing in 1867:

“I feel that I have the right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before.”

As for Lucy Stone, Lucy supported the 15th ammendment in 1870. I always thought Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were more in line with Sojourner Truth than Lucy because they wanted an amendment allowing black men and all women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony, stated, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”

"After the Civil War, Stone found herself at odds with fellow suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both former allies who deeply opposed Stone's support for the 15th Amendment. While the amendment only guaranteed black men the right to vote, Stone backed it, reasoning that it would eventually lead to the women's vote as well. Anthony and Stanton strongly disagreed; they felt that the amendment was a half-measure, and resented what they perceived as Stone's betrayal of the women's rights movement." - One of Divided Sisters: Bridging the Gap Between Black and White Women by Midge Wilson & Kathy Russell, Anchor, 1996.

Lucy Stone has long been of interest to me because I view her as a leading activist and pioneer of the abolitionist and women's rights movements. Interestingly in 1855, Lucy married Henry Blackwell, a committed abolitionist who'd spent two long years wooing his fellow activist. Initially Lucy took her husband's surname, but she opted to go back to her maiden name a year after their marriage. Per Lucy:

"A wife should no more take her husband's name than he should hers," she explained in a letter to her spouse. "My name is my identity and must not be lost."

At their wedding, both she and Henry also protested the idea via signed document that a husband has legal dominion over his wife.

Fortunately, many have heard of Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone. Thankfully both are still remembered today.

800px-Lucy_Stone_statue.jpg

I have been fortunate to see the statue of Lucy Stone in Boston. It is part of the Boston Women's Memorial on Commonwealth Ave. (Photo coutesy of Wikipedia)

220px-Stamp_US_1968_Lucy_Stone.jpg

United States Postal stamp honoring Stone in 1968. (Photo coutesy of Wikipedia)

Sojourner Truth is a huge reason the later women's rights movement has never violently interested me
This thread is a wonderful tribute to Sojourner Truth @JPK Huson 1863, but I'm curious about the use of the word "violently" when you say "the later women's rights movement has never violently interested me." What does that mean?
Again, this is a wonderful thread. I hope it will lead folks to learn more about her and Lucy Stone.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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This thread is a wonderful tribute to Sojourner Truth @JPK Huson 1863, but I'm curious about the use of the word "violently" when you say "the later women's rights movement has never violently interested me." What does that mean?
Again, this is a wonderful thread. I hope it will lead folks to learn more about her and Lucy Stone.

Took all the wind outa my sails, by way of being able to hold the women's rights leaders in a whole lot of respect, is what I mean. We tend to venerate our women who achieved the vote- which was needed. Still. Lucy Stone walked the walk hand in hand with her sisters- which is where we all could have gone instead of this road of increasingly separated, convoluted forks in them. Cady and Stanton may have left all the quotes they liked but did not. It was tougher, achieving this objective with our black sisters in tow- so they were left behind. That's the simple version.

It's increasingly clear there were race issues shot through even our women's rights movements. Hint of it, more than a hint in the snooty editorial from Harper's interestingly published at the same time as Ohio's gathering. " Anglo Saxon ". There was pressure to disallow Sojourner speaking that day. Why? It was feared she would stray off topic, to her ' other ' ferocious subject, abolition.
 

WJC

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Yes, I do.
Thanks for posting this information.
In my opinion, she is one of the great heroes of our American saga, and one of the least appreciated. I don't want anyone to think I am suggesting we lower our esteem of, say, Harriet Tubman; but why shouldn't Sojourner Truth be pictured on our
currency?
For more on Sojourner Truth and others- both the celebrated and the forgotten- see Timothy P. McCarthy and John Stauffer, Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism. (New York: The Bew Press, 2006).
 
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#10
In my opinion, she is one of the great heroes of our American saga, and one of the least appreciated. I don't want anyone to think I am suggesting we lower our esteem of, say, Harriet Tubman; but why shouldn't Sojourner Truth be pictured on our currency?
Absolutely agree!
 

Yulie

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#11
Frances Gage's recounting of Mother Truth's May 1851 women's right speech is problematic. Gage gave her account in 1863 with Mother Truth speaking in dialect. See http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/AintIAWoman.htm Her speech was originally published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle, edited by Marcus Robinson (with Mother Truth's input), on June 21, 1851. The Sojourner Truth Institute provides this 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.

What Mother Truth said is amongst the "great unravelings" -- along with what Rosa Parks did. The Sojourner Truth Institute has a virtual library of original versions and popularized versions of her speech. Additionally, Dr. Nell Painter has studied this issue and published Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol in 1997 and edited The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1998. Both books are highly recommended studies.

-Yulie
 

Dedej

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Frances Gage's recounting of Mother Truth's May 1851 women's right speech is problematic. Gage gave her account in 1863 with Mother Truth speaking in dialect. See http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/AintIAWoman.htm Her speech was originally published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle, edited by Marcus Robinson (with Mother Truth's input), on June 21, 1851. The Sojourner Truth Institute provides this 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.

What Mother Truth said is amongst the "great unravelings" -- along with what Rosa Parks did. The Sojourner Truth Institute has a virtual library of original versions and popularized versions of her speech. Additionally, Dr. Nell Painter has studied this issue and published Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol in 1997 and edited The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1998. Both books are highly recommended studies.

-Yulie

Thanks for the book recommendations Yulie!

I am a huge admirer/fan of Dr. Nell Irvin Painter - I will be sure to add these to my reading list.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Frances Gage's recounting of Mother Truth's May 1851 women's right speech is problematic. Gage gave her account in 1863 with Mother Truth speaking in dialect. See http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/AintIAWoman.htm Her speech was originally published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle, edited by Marcus Robinson (with Mother Truth's input), on June 21, 1851. The Sojourner Truth Institute provides this version:

Thank you so much, Yulie- it's far more eloquent, which Truth must have been, as a lecturer. And Northern, so should have picked up on it. Genuinely appreciate you historians coming to the aid of we Fumblers-Around-In-Time. It's one of the nicer things here, not being a professional- someone generally rides over and puts all the furniture back in place, when an amateur knocks over tables. Sojourner is especially important. A former thread devolved, hoped to leave a memorial not too inept.

Timing here is better anyway. Only recently came across that putrid Harper's article from the same time. Found it so shocking, such a blatant declaration, a published, public one, of the separation we just do not hear about, Sojourner's truth telling became even more succinct. Made the decision not to post the stupid thing. Any editorial containing the words the author did, as a point of pride can go back to archival dust.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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@JPK Huson 1863 thanks for this wonderful thread on Sojourner Truth.

That is kind but it sure could be better. She gets presented as someone who certainly advocated Women's Rights but wow did I miss the major signs not all was as is painted inside the movement, from inception. How does History not connect the dots on her speech, the Ohio convention then not notice, among the list of women so famous for this cause in 1920, no black women? The NAWSA just squished black women out- they do not teach that along with the history of women and the vote.

Oh- link to her narrative in first post- Hathitrust is awesome!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Yes, I do.
Thanks for posting this information.
In my opinion, she is one of the great heroes of our American saga, and one of the least appreciated. I don't want anyone to think I am suggesting we lower our esteem of, say, Harriet Tubman; but why shouldn't Sojourner Truth be pictured on our
currency?
For more on Sojourner Truth and others- both the celebrated and the forgotten- see Timothy P. McCarthy and John Stauffer, Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism. (New York: The Bew Press, 2006).

Whoa, what a terrific nomination for our currency! Brand, new thought and should not have been.
 

Yulie

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Yulie, glad to see your post.
Yeah. I resurface occasionally to say something. I have studied Mother Truth on and off. The Civil War monument in downtown Detroit has her sitting on it amongst soldiers and sailors. She's holding a wreath. I also visit her gravesite whenever possible.

Also addendum to my above remarks: Marcus Robinson was the official recorder (note taker/secretary) during the Ohio Women's Rights convention. I figure that his writings are more sustainable than Gage and Beecher and .... [brainfart - the woman who wrote the cookbook]. The three of them have left a mess (including proclaiming her dead when she was still upright and taking nourishment). Another addendum: Mother Truth wasn't an exact Quaker. She was more of a Seventh-Day Adventist and Evangelist and Non-denominational. She was a follower of John Harvey Kellogg -- thus explaining how she ended up in Battle Creek, Michigan. That's a hummm moment as the Mormons did not allow black membership until the 1970s. Today, the Mormon's maintain the upkeep of her gravesite. Overall, Mother Truth was a radical abolitionist and wholeheartedly embraced those principle. She's on my list of people I wish to have a conversation.

-Yulie
 



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