"That man over there say
a woman needs to be helped into carriages
and lifted over ditches
and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helped me into carriages
or over mud puddles
or gives me a best place...
And ain't I a woman?
Look at me -
Look at my arm!
I have plowed and planted
and gathered into barns
and no man could head me...
And ain't I am woman?
I could work as much
and eat as much as a man---
when I could get to it---
and bear the lash as well...
And ain't I a woman?
I have born 13 children
and seen most all sold into slavery
and when I cried out a mother's grief
none but Jesus heard me...
And ain't I a woman?
That little man in black there say
a woman can't have as much rights as a man
cause Christ wasn't a woman...
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
together women ought to be able to turn it
rightside up again."
Born Isabella, Sojourner was the daughter of slaves and spent her childhood and
young womanhood as an abused (physically, sexually, emotionally) non-human
property (chattel) of several master-families. Her first language was Dutch.
Between 1810 and 1827 she bore 13 children, (at least 5 of whom were
documented surviving childhood) with her husband, a fellow slave named
Thomas. The couple had all their surviving children taken and sold away from
them, a grief that they bore throughout bondage, and which brought Thomas to
an early grave.
Just before New York state abolished slavery in 1827, Isabella fled her owners
and found refuge with Isaac Van Wagener, who set her free.
With the help of Quaker friends, she waged a court battle in which she recovered
her small son, who had been sold illegally into slavery in the South. About 1829
she went to New York City with her two youngest children, supporting herself
through domestic employment, and psychologically awakening from a life of self-
negation and unspeakable loss. During this time she was involved with some
charismatic religious groups as well as Quaker silent worship.
Since childhood Isabella had experienced visions and inner voices, which she
attributed to God. In 1843, obeying a supernatural call to “travel up and down
the land,”she left New York City and took the name Sojourner Truth, which she
used from then on. She sang, preached, and debated at camp meetings, in
churches, and on village streets, exhorting her listeners to accept the biblical
message of God's goodness and the brotherhood of humanity. She was a tall,
steel strong woman with a resonant voice and silent presence that created a
tremendous impact on many people.
In 1850 she traveled throughout the Midwest, where her reputation for personal
magnetism preceded her and drew heavy crowds. As a nomadic minister and
emancipation prophetess, Sojourner Truth was a great orator during the
Abolitionist movement and for women's rights.
Her gift of articulating profound messages and teachings amazed many since she
had never learned to read or write. She spoke mostly to white audiences as an
educating experience. She supported herself somewhat by selling copies of her
book, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which she had dictated to Olive Gilbert.
Though adored by the new-intellectuals, many of them wealthy, Sojourner's
financial reality in her simple lifestyle was often quite different. She did receive
donations and love gifts though, which always took her by surprise.
Encountering the women's rights movement in the early 1850s, and encouraged
by other women leaders, notably Lucretia Mott, she continued to appear before
suffrage gatherings for the rest of her life, urging that women, being superior,
were not in need of "equal" rights but something much more.
In the 1850s Sojourner Truth settled in Battle Creek, Michigan. At the beginning
of the American Civil War, she gathered supplies for black volunteer regiments
and in 1864 went to Washington, D.C., where she helped integrate streetcars
and was received at the White House by President Abraham Lincoln. The same
year, she accepted an appointment with the National Freedmen's Relief
Association counseling former slaves, particularly in matters of resettlement. In
1875 she retired to her home in Battle Creek, where she remained until her death.
|AIN'T I A WOMAN?
Intuitive Minister of Speech & Song,
Abolitionist, Suffragist, and
Mother of 13 children
Born c. 1797, Ulster county, N.Y.,
Died Nov. 26, 1883, Battle Creek, Mich.