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17 pages 34 minutes read

Sojourner Truth

Ain't I A Woman

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1851

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Themes

Women’s Suffrage and Abolition

Suffrage means the right to vote. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 is often credited as the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. The US guaranteed women the right to vote 72 years later in 1920 through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 came at an early point in the movement—a time when white suffragettes did not agree on whether women’s suffrage and abolition could be fought for simultaneously.

Truth’s speech also addresses the institution of slavery and condemns the practice of enslavement. Historians suggest that the abolitionist movement in the United States became an organized effort in the 1830s, and the Civil War began 10 years after Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. This places her address in the thick of the abolitionist struggle. Truth notes in her speech: “‘twixt the [Black Americans] of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon” (Paragraph 1).

Abolitionists of this era published personal narratives of emancipated Black Americans to appeal to those who had yet to join the cause to end enslavement. Truth uses a similar tactic in her speech, speaking of “bear[ing] the lash” (Paragraph 2) and being separated from her children.

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