chapter  1
2 Pages

Sojourner's Famous Speech

Marius Robinson, the abolitionist and newspaperman was present at and reported on the Akron, Ohio Women’s Convention of 1851, when Sojourner Truth delivered her famous “Are’n’t I a Woman?” speech. He published this account of Sojourner’s famous speech in his paper, the Anti-Slavery Bugle . The newspaper article was, for a long time, lost or overlooked, and a later version by Frances Gage was accepted as the authentic rendition. Now it is assumed that the more contemporaneous version, Robinson’s, is, in fact, the more historically accurate. Missing from it are the famous refrain, “Are’n’t I a Woman?” the inaccurate claims about Sojourner having borne thirteen children, and even her alleged complaints that no man ever helped her out of a carriage or across a puddle; these are some of the most widely cited passages from Frances Gage’s later recollection of the speech. Their absence has caused some historians, like Carleton Mabee, to argue that Gage’s later version was invented out of whole cloth. Nonetheless, Margaret Washington has pointed out this account does bear key similarities to Gage’s version of the speech. These similarities support the structure of the speech as a series of rhetorical questions, and a Sojourner who, as a powerful and popular orator, spoke in a folk style about equal rights for women. 1

June 21, 1851 Women’s Rights Convention Sojourner Truth

[One of the most unique and interesting speeches of the convention was made by Sojourner Truth, an emancipated slave. It is impossible to transfer

it to paper, or convey any adequate idea of the eff ect it produced upon the audience. Th ose only can appreciate it who saw her powerful form, her whole-souled, earnest gestures, and listened to her strong and truthful tones. She came forward to the platform and addressing the President said with great simplicity:]

May I say a few words? Receiving an affi rmative answer, she proceeded; 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 woman have a pint and 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 little pint’ll hold. Th e poor men seem 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. Th e 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 weptand Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Th rough God who created him and woman who bore him. Man, where is 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, and he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.