Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?

This video of Alice Walker reading Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech is fantastic (ht Elizabeth Esther). And also a bit sad, when you think about how much this speech still applies today – how much the same misogyny still poisons the church, how much white evangelical notions of femininity simultaneously construct white women as creatures to be coddled and infantilized by men in the name of “protection” and marginalize women of color by exploiting their labor, demonizing their sexuality, and devaluing their families and reproductive freedom. It’s sad how little has changed.

Transcript (source):

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and 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? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

5 Comments

  1. It was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration that helped me see how demeaning CBMW is.

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/Senecafalls.html

    • Another good one. Sad how much that still applies, too.

      I think perhaps the saddest part for me is how many women in SGM have internalized the line that they are being honored and respected even as their bodies and minds and spirits and work are devalued and crushed and exploited.

  2. Hey, totally OT. I don’t remember if it was you who rec’d “Dating Jesus” to me (I can’t find the post/comment where it was mentioned anywhere in my email), but just in case, I wanted to let you know that I read it and loved it, especially the chapter that uses the Gospels to debunk complementarian “theology”. A lovely, insightful, and occasionally very funny read.

  3. Thank-you for posting this, I love Sojourner Truth! My mom used to read some of her speeches to me when I was little. Unfortunately, my mother focused on her Christianity and not her feminism.
    My ancestors weren’t slaves, but they were also colonized by the Brits and pioneers and farmers. The neighbours still talk about how my great-grandma, grandma and mom outworked the men. I don’t understand how they never freed themselves from the lies of complementarianism.