“Ain’t I a woman?”

April 28, 2011 at 15:44 (Rambles and Rumbles)

I’ve just read the horrible things Representative Sally Kern (R – Oklahoma City) said during a recent debate in the State Capitol.  Instantly, I was reminded of the words of Sojourner Truth.

I don’t think that anyone could have put it more aptly.  Furthermore, I’m sure that Mrs. Truth would be quite disappointed that this issue hasn’t been long ago resolved.

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 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.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
Delivered 1851
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
via Internet Modern History Source Book
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.html

But hey, then again it has only been ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY YEARS, right?  Maybe we’ll just have to wait a little longer for the progress she imagined in her speech to take place.

Thank you, Sojourner Truth.  Very well put indeed, even so many years later.

Yours in the spirit of service,
-mk

Side Note:  It appears that there is some controversy as to the exact words of Mrs. Truth during this speech.  So, in the interest of being fair, below is the alternative version of her speech, as reported first by Marius Robinson.  (The above version was released in 1863, twelve years later, by Frances Dana Barker Gage.  The Gage version became the historic standard.)

I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.

via Wikipedia at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_I_a_Woman%3F

Regardless of which version is the “real” version, the essential message is the same.  Maybe someday society will learn this lesson.

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