Well-known speech by Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) delivered in 1851 at the Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio. This famous version was recorded and published by Frances Dana Gage, the convention's organizer.

"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."

(I have also seen this speech printed with "ar'n't" rather than "ain't.")


However, SoujournerTruth.org notes that Marcus Robinson recorded this same convention speech quite differently:

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.
Without a time machine, we can't truly know which person was able to transcribe the speech more accurately, if Gage rewrote it to make it sound more like perceptions of an uneducated former slave or if Robinson changed things to make them sound closer to a proper nineteenth-century speechmaker.

Sources:
http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/Default.htm
http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/AintIAWoman.htm

A book written by bell hooks connecting the problems of racism and sexism in a way that made both white feminists and academics uncomfortable because it confronted the dynamics of racism within the context of feminism something that both parties had an interest in keeping seperated.

There is speculation that this speech has been edited from its original version by Francis Gage. Apparently, the word "ain't" wasn't even in existence at the time of this speech.

I for one don't know if I can believe that the speech was editted, but Nell Painter explores this in her book, Doers of the World. Apparently, Gage "slangified" Sojourner Truth's speech. I haven't read the book myself, so I haven't seen Painter's explanation of why she did this, but it seems to me that it may be to make it seem more like a black woman wrote it. Another possible explanation was that this was the slang when the speech was editted, and Gage designed it to appeal to the average poorly educated black woman.

Anyhow, I personally do not have proof of these claims, but I suggest reading the book if you would like to see the proof. I learned of this speech in my women's studies class, and the thing that was most interesting was that there were people in the class who had never heard of Sojourner Truth before, and actually had to ask what race she was...

Whether the speech was editted or not is fairly irrelevant (although admittedly unfair to the author), because the message is still quite valid. Whether this was the original text, Truth's argument is artfully presented and an important piece of the time. It is important to realize that the women's movement isn't the WHITE women's movement, as some history books might make you believe. There were many black women including Sojourner Truth fighting for women's rights, the foremost being suffrage, even though they were unable to gain these rights as African Americans.

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