Historians assert that Ain't I a Woman? is an improvised speech given by Sojourner Truth on May 29, 1951, while she attended the Women's Convention in Akron Ohio, where the main topic was women's rights. After hearing the ministers of different church denominations claim, among other things, that superior rights and privileges for man, were on the ground of "superior intellect"; because of the "manhood of Christ; because if God had desired the equality of woman, He would have given some token of His will through the birth, life, and death of the Saviour", Sojourner asked permission to speak and the rest is history.
Since we are not in the business of contradicting historians, we will only add that it is surely one of the greatest improvised speech ever put down on paper.
The first complete transcription was published on June 21 in the Anti-Slavery Bugle by Marius Robinson, an abolitionist and newspaper editor who acted as the convention's recording secretary. Sojourner was born into slavery in New York State and after gaining her freedom became a well-known anti-slavery speaker, but she never learned how to read or write. She depended on her friends and editors to write her thinkings for her.
This speech received wider and greater publicity in 1863 during the American Civil War when Frances Dana Barker Gage, women rights' activist, published a different version, one which became known as Ain't I a Woman? because of its oft-repeated question. This later, better known and more widely available version has been the one referenced by most historians, even though it was recalled twelve years after the fact. Because Gage's version is built primarily on her interpretation and the way she chose to portray it, some recent discussions allege that it cannot be considered a pure representation of the event and that the first version is more reliable.
Either way, it is a great message, no matter which version you choose. We are glad and grateful that someone recorded this important speech for posterity and for the benefit of generations of readers who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to hear her deliver these powerful words. Also, we would add that improvisation, when it comes from the heart and a place of astonishing truth and depth, can move mountains, as an ancient proverb says. At least, it surely moved us!
Now you tried it. See if you can stay still while listening to it. You'll certify that we are not exaggerating because you too will feel your soul stirring. And if you don’t, then maybe you are more stubborn than a mountain.
Hear actress Kerry Washington perform Gage's version of Sojourner Truth's speech.
We can only imagine the faces of the powerful religious men in that audience. If we were them, we will still be hung up on "Man had nothing to do with Him."
Awesome courage, awesome woman.
EXPLORE MORE LIKE THIS