Reflecting on Sojourner Truth’s “Aint I A Woman?”

BLFF Team | May 29, 2023


On May 29, 1851—172 years ago today—abolitionist Sojourner Truth delivered her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” to the crowds of the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. While it was not immediately transcribed, and there are some debates on the exact language used, the message she delivered has been used to inspire those fighting for equality for generations. 

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Bomfree, in roughly 1797 in the state of New York. Truth spent the first part of her life enslaved, forced to do physical labor and subjected to cruel and violent treatment. In 1826, she escaped to freedom with her infant daughter, with the help of a nearby abolitionist family. When the man who enslaved her tried to illegally sell her son, Truth sued him, becoming the first black woman in the United States to successfully win a lawsuit against a white man. 

While fighting this legal battle, it’s said that Truth underwent a spiritual awakening. In 1843, she asserted that “The Spirit called on her to preach the truth,” and she began using the name Sojourner Truth. She began to travel, preaching about abolition. While traveling, she met and began to work with the famous abolitionists William Llyod Garrison and Frederick Douglass who encouraged her to speak more widely on anti-slavery. With the help of Garrison, she then went on to publish her memoir in 1850, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave 

Truth continued to travel across the East Coast, giving speeches on the topics of abolition, women’s rights, temperance, prison reform, equality, and more. Today she is considered one of the most influential abolitionists and suffragists of her time. On the 172nd anniversary of Truth’s famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech, we’re looking back at excerpts from the seminal speech, as well as other powerful quotes from the span of her life: 

“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?” 

“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.” 

“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.” 

“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.”
“Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier. I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me.” 

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to keep track of all things gender and politics.

[gravityform id="2" title="false" description="false"]

Join the Conversation