17 pages • 34 minutes readSojourner Truth
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“Ain’t I a Woman?” is a speech delivered by abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth in 1851 at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth, whose original name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave in 1797. She escaped bondage and, after an experience of religious conversion, went on to become one of the most significant civil rights leaders of the 19th century. Several attendees of the convention later reproduced Truth’s address. Women’s rights activist Frances Gage published the most well-known edition of the speech in 1863, which is the version discussed here.
In this speech, Truth argues that Black women deserve to be treated as equals to white women and all women deserve to be treated as equals to men. Her first argument concerns physical and emotional strength. She details her experiences while enslaved, pointing to her endurance and resilience as evidence of her equality with both white women and men in general.
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Truth’s second argument focuses on the role of “intellect” in the debate over suffrage and civil rights for Blacks and women. She believes that even if intellectual capacity varies between people, everyone deserves to be educated to their full potential.
Truth’s final argument focuses on religion. To those who say that men are superior to women because Jesus was a man, Truth responds that Jesus was born from God and a woman. Men had no part in it. Truth then discusses the biblical story of creation, arguing that if one woman, Eve, could turn the world upside down by herself, the women at the convention can, together, turn it right side up.