Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
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.
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.
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.
Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Northern Slave 1853
Sojourner Truth, God's Faithful Pilgrim 1938
Narrative, Olive Gilbert's book, updated 1878
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.
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.