Friday, January 11, 2008
Phenomenal Woman - 4
We (women) take a lot for granted these days. Sure things are not 100% perfect but history shows that we have come a long way.
I think that it is fitting that my first Women's Issue post for the year pays tribute to a woman who a lot of people have never heard about but who did a lot for women's rights - Sojourner Truth.
She was born Isabella Baumfree into slavery in 1797. She was sold into slavery in 1806 to a very brutal owner. She was sold and resold until she fell in love with a slave from a neigboring farm. The relationship was forbidden by her owners since she owner wouldnt own any children born into that union and the lovers were separated. She was eventually married off to a much older slave and she had 5 children.
She was promised freedom by her owner who changed his mind at the last minute. Isabella then escaped to freedom with only her infant daughter as her other children were not emancipated.
Her journey into the history books started when she had a life changing experience with a family she stayed with and became a devout christian. On June 1, 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth telling her friends "The Spirit calls me and i must go".
She set about travelling and preaching about abolition. She then joined the Northampton Association of Education & Industry which supported women's rights, religious tolerance and pacifism. As a result of belonging to this association, she met a number of renowned figures including Frederick Douglass.
She started to to dictate her memoirs and had it published in 1850 privately. That same year she bought a home which was virtually unheard of in those days. Negroes did not buy homes let alone Negro women. In 1851 she attended the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Ohio where she delivered her famous speech which i have included at the end of this post.
Sojourner Truth spoke to hundreds of audiences over the next decade and even spoke at the suffragist convention in New York where she met Harriet Beecher Stowe (the woman that fought the good fight allowing women to vote - she was played by Hilary Swank in an HBO tv movie). In 1858, she was giving a speech when a member of the audience accused her of being a man - she opened her blouse and revealed her breasts.
Here is her famous speech titled Ain't I a Woman?
"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 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"
During the civil war, she helped recruit black troops for the Union Army. In 1870, she tried to secure land rights for freed slaves and continued to speak about abolition, women's rights, prison reform and against capital punishment.
She died in 1883 and her last words were " Be a follower of the Lord Jesus"
I find her life story inspiring and motivating.
So to this amazing woman that came before us, i say Well Done & Thank You