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Sojourner Truth's powerful speech standing up for women's rights is still inspiring the world

Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I a Woman?' speech highlights her fight for women's rights amid discrimination.

Sojourner Truth's powerful speech standing up for women's rights is still inspiring the world
Cover Image Source: Close-up of a quilt that depicts Sojourner Truth, on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Washington DC, September 1976. (Photo by Ann E. Zelle/Getty Images)

Women's rights have made significant strides in the last few decades, but there is still a long way to go. However, women striving for equal status in society was a process that began many years ago, with many women speaking up against the injustices that they had to face. However, with time, people have forgotten many prominent names. One woman stands out among all of them and she was none other than Isabella Baumfree, who some people may know as Sojourner Truth. According to the National Park Service, she was one of the most powerful advocates for human rights in the nineteenth century.

Image Source: People walk by the Women’s Rights Pioneers monument honoring Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Central Park during a snow storm on December 17, 2020 in New York City.  (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Image Source: People walk by the Women’s Rights Pioneers monument honoring Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Central Park during a snowstorm on December 17, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

She was born enslaved in New York in the late 1790s, going on to become one of the key players against slavery, per the Smithsonian Magazine. It was the result of her exposure to the harsh reality of being a slave who was sold often and treated very poorly. She ran away from her New York estate because her master did not uphold the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827. Baumfree later told her master, "I did not run away; I walked away by daylight…." She realized later in life that she had a deep connection to God and changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843 to travel to show people their signs and become a symbol for change.

 

Image Source: The autobiography of abolitionist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), formerly an enslaved woman and originally Isabella Van Wagener. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Image Source: The autobiography of abolitionist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), formerly an enslaved woman and originally Isabella Van Wagener. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

Most history buffs will know that she was more popularly known for her speech during the 1851 Women's Rights Conventions in Akron, Ohio. She was most likely the only Black person in the room and asked if she could address all the people at the venue. Her speech would go down in history as one of the most powerful speeches in the domain of abolitionist movements and women's rights in the world. The speech is titled, "Ain't I a Woman?" and she openly critiqued how women deserved equality.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | RDNE Stock project
Representative Image Source: Pexels | RDNE Stock project

The actual contents of her speech have been disputed, but all of them largely focus on the theme of a woman being denied basic rights by society. There was something about her speech where she got listeners to listen to and see how there was no reason for women to be so poorly treated and that they deserved rights just as much as men did. The truth would state how she could do most things without the help of a man and would question the crowd, asking, "Ain't I a woman?" Sojourner spoke at another convention just two years after the event in Akron.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Katie Godowski
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Katie Godowski

There, she was subject to many taunts and racial comments from men in the audience. At the time, Sojourner was a woman of color, which meant she received insults on both fronts. But she did not let the men get to her and calmly diffused the situation by sharing the biblical story of Queen Esther. From this, she drew the conclusion that women did not get "half as much rights as they ought to" but that they wanted more and would get it. Even after the Civil War, she persisted in advocating for the rights of African Americans and women. Sojourner Truth passed away in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1883, maintaining her commitment to social justice until the end.



 

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