Posted by Padmore Editorial


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. 



"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."





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