Who is she?
Sojourner Truth was an American abolitionist and feminist, famous for her speech “Ain’t I A Woman“, delivered in 1851. Born Isabella Baumfree, she was sold into slavery at the age of 11 with a flock of sheep for $100.
Sojourner escaped slavery with her infant daughter and later learned that her five-year-old son had been illegally sold to a man. She sued for her son’s return in court and was the first black woman in America to successfully challenge a white man in the courts in this way.
She joined the abolitionist movement, but also challenged them for not seeking the same freedoms for women as well as men. Changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she toured the country, speaking for women’s suffrage. At one event, an audience member accused her of being a man – she responded by showing her breasts.
At another, she was greeted with hisses and boos and responded: “You may hiss as much as you please, but women will get their rights anyway. You can’t stop us, neither”.
Her most famous speech was “Ain’t I A Woman”, which articulated that women could – and did – work as hard as men, and deserved equal rights.
Why we should thank her?
Sojourner spoke out about women’s rights at a time when women didn’t have the vote, and she challenged abolitionists to include women in their fight for emancipation.
“That man over there say that women needs to be helped into carriages, 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? and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain’t I a woman?”