chapter  2
3 Pages

Are'n't I a Woman?

In 1863, 12 years after the speech was originally delivered, Frances Gage, a white women’s rights advocate who also supported the abolition of slavery, published her now-famous version of Sojourner Truth’s “Are’n’t I A Woman?” speech. Sojourner delivered this speech at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. In 1880, feminist leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage began publishing a multivolume History of Women’s Suffrage that included, in Volume 2, Frances Gage’s version of the memorable speech. It has been a fi xture in American women’s history and rhetoric ever since. Although Gage presided over the Akron convention, and it has been suggested that, initially, she was not then welcoming to Truth as a black female speaker, Gage’s version of the speech has endured as the cornerstone of an image of Sojourner as a feisty, black feminist, who pugnaciously asserted her revolutionary views on women’s rights. In this version, Sojourner challenges traditional Christian views of women, boldly asserts her equality to men, and even rolls up her sleeve to fl ex her arm like Rosie the Riveter. This was the Sojourner that students and admirers of Sojourner learned to love over the years, until more recent studies have cast doubt on the authenticity and accuracy of the recollection. A close comparison of Gage’s speech to the historical record, and to Robinson’s contemporaneous article, offer a profi table historian’s exercise in weighing the authenticity and accuracy of the dueling versions.