Feminist of the Past- Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Bomefree. She was the second youngest child of ten. She was born a slave (Credit). When her ‘owner’ died in 1806, the nine year old was sold at auction with a flock of sheep for $100. She was sold a few more times until finally she ended up the property of John Dumont, a New York resident. In 1817, she married an older slave named Thomas and they had at least 3 children (Credit). In 1826, a year before New York passed a law emancipating their slaves, Truth took her newborn daughter and walked off the plantation. She found refuge with a Quaker family, and she was never owned by someone again. She eventually fought in court for her other children, one of whom was illegally sold to a man in Alabama (Credit). “The case was one of the first in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in a United States court.” On June 1, 1843, Isabella Bomefree became Sojourner Truth. She found religion and devoted her life to the abolition of slavery. “In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported a broad reform agenda including women’s rights and pacifism.” They eventually disbanded in 1846, but Truth continued to be an avid activist (Credit).

In 1850, Truth wrote a book about her experiences and spoke at the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. After this she started touring with another abolitionist giving speeches about slavery and human rights. In May of 1851, Truth gave a speech that eventually becomes known as “Ain’t I A Woman?” at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron (Credit). The Speech was a response to a number of male speakers who claimed that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they were inferior to men. This assumption was due to their belief that women were “weak and required special treatment” (Credit). Truth responded,

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? (Credit)

She calls out the fact that white men thought women delicate only when they were talking about white women. Black women were expected to do as much as black men. So if black women were not inherently delicate then neither were white women and their argument was nonsensical.

Since Truth’s time women have gained the right to vote. But there is still much to do in order for public opinion to reach the beliefs of Sojourner. The question “Are women the weaker sex?” was asked on Debate.org and 41% of people said yes. A few responses from the yes side are:

Women are weak!!! All you women just face it. It is the way nature created you. Women were always the weaker sex. Since the beginning of human evolution, men were always the hunters and the ones who went outside and did physical work. Women were the ones who took care of the house, cleaned, prepared the food, and took care of the children. In the present day, it is the same. We have not evolved and switched roles. We are still the same. The only difference now is that you women are trying to take on the roles of men, stealing our jobs, fucking up shit in politics and the government, and running around out and about in a world you do not understand. You should be at home, in your kitchen, preparing food for your husband, waiting for him to come back from work while you clean the house and take care of the children. I cannot believe all of this women’s rights BULLSHIT.

and

You’re joking, right? If women are man’s equal, why don’t they just repeal the rape laws, since an equal woman should be able to fight off her attacker? This is a ridiculous debate. Women have become jealous of men in every way possible. They no longer know how to appreciate who they are.

A few responses from the no side are:

NO, absolutely not! The truth is that, yes, men are generally physically stronger than women. It’s a fact and the feminists are foolish to deny that. BUT, there are many cases in which women are stronger than men(continues).

and

Definition of weaker: Physically inferior. While there is no question that men are physically stronger than women in terms of muscle and size, women possess the physical ability to do something that a mans body would never be capable of; child birth.(continues)

and

Each gender has different strengths and weaknesses. Men are obviously more athletic than women. They are stronger, more agile, faster and have quicker reflexes, while women only have better flexibility. But athletisism isnt the only way to measure strength.

Sojourner Truth would be appalled at how little men have changed over the years. She would probably be aggravated that even most of the people who do not believe that women are the weaker sex as a whole they still believe that men are physically stronger than women. As she states in her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech, some women are treated as though they are physically weaker but in actuality they are not. She would probably still be giving speeches and attending rallies, urging people to change their beliefs about women.

 

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