Episode 13: “Ain’t I a Woman?” by Sojourner Truth

Ain’t I a Woman?

The Speech

“Ain’t I a Woman?” is a speech, delivered extemporaneously, by Sojourner Truth. The speech was briefly reported in two contemporary newspapers, and a transcript of the speech was published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on June 21, 1851. It received wider publicity in 1863 during the American Civil War when Frances Dana Barker Gage published a different version, one which became known as Ain’t I a Woman? because of its oft-repeated question. This later, better known and more widely available version has been the one referenced by most historians. ⁠Visit www.thesojournertruthproject.com to read about the two versions of the speeches.⁠

“Now, if you want me to get out of the world, you had better get the women voting soon. I shan’t go till I can do that.”

The Speaker

Sojourner Truth, born Isabella “Belle” Baumfree (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her”. Her best-known speech was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title “Ain’t I a Woman?” In 2014, Truth was included in Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time”.⁠

“I feel safe in the midst of my enemies, for the truth is all powerful and will prevail.”

Sojourner Truth

Our Guest

Rayna Clay MacKay

Rayna Clay MacKay is a wife, mom, and Obstetric Anesthesiologist. She married a dreamy Scotsman for much more than his accent and gained two fantastic bonus kids as a result. They added three more kiddos to the mix, including identical twin boys, and a daughter. They also have the best Cavoodle in the world named Hamish. She is a firm believer that differences are what make us great, and they should be applauded and supported. As she’s gotten older and wiser, She’s found her voice becoming louder championing for the injustices in the medical system, and society as a whole. Her hope is that the future is more glorious with a rainbow of differing people and opinions that are equally acknowledged.

“There was one of two things I had a right to: liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would take the other, for no man should take me alive. I should fight for liberty as long as my strength lasted.”

Harriet Tubman

Amy’s Takeaways

Two big points stood out to me as I read Sojourner Truth’s famous speech. First, in response to women saying “we don’t need to be helped out of carriages, thank you very much,” she responded, basically “No one helps me out of carriages. I do hard, physical labor all day and am as strong as any man. And aren’t I a woman too?” This callout of men’s and white people’s blindness to women of color and working-class women is every bit as necessary today as it was in 1851. Second, I was dismayed at the patronizing attitude of Frances Gage in revising Truth’s speech. So often still, white people interfere and speak for people of color, revealing underlying racist attitudes. I am so grateful to the Sojourner Truth project for restoring Truth’s words to the original. And wow, was it a joy to reconnect with my college friend and role model, the force of nature, Dr. Rayna Clay MacKay. In many ways Rayna’s personal stories and insights were as impactful and memorable to me as the speech of the mighty Sojourner Truth.

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