Regardless of your opinion on this upcoming election, one thing is for sure: We’re experiencing history with the first woman leading a major political party in the United States. With this comes a spotlight on issues that women specifically face like the wage gap, family leave, and others. Such a historical moment of this magnitude reminds us of another time in history where we were fighting for our rights as both women and African Americans. If we flash back to 1851, one of the biggest events in the fight for women’s rights was taking place. In Akron, Ohio, a group of women came together to speak on the issues facing the women of that time. In one of the most famous speeches to date, Sojourner Truth came to speak not only for women’s rights, but she also came to speak on the injustice towards African Americans.
Born in New York to slavery, Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree. After being separated from a fellow slave she hoped to marry, Truth was married off to another slave named Thomas. She later went on to have five children with him, but after her master refused to free her in accordance to a promise he made to her, she fled.
Sixteen years later in 1843, she became a preacher and this is when she officially changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth. This profession led to her speaking out as an abolitionist and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
In 1851, Truth gave a moving and powerful speech at the Women’s Rights Convention:
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.
Truth begins her speech by saying that the white men of the country will soon have a problem on their hands from all the black people in the South and women of the North demanding their rights.
Sojourner Truth then goes on to explain all the contradictions that have been placed in their society, not only towards women but also towards African Americans.
Truth has heard men say to help a white woman into a carriage and over ditches, but no one has ever extended those same pleasantries to her. She further goes on to contradict the abilities of men by denoting that as a women she worked her whole life and most men could not keep up with her.
She uses her speech to further discredit the excuses and claims that men have made for not giving right to women. Men would claim that women shouldn’t have the same rights as men because Christ wasn’t a man. Truth says that ‘men’ have nothing to do with Christ. Christ came from God and a woman, and man had nothing to do with him.
Truth ends her speech by telling the crowd that women should not be underestimated and that they have the power to right all the issues of the world. She uses the example that if Eve, who was one woman, could turn the world upside down, how could a group of strong, intelligent women not have the ability to fix it?
Although this convention took place 165 years ago, and women have been granted the right to vote since 1920, we are still fighting for women’s rights in 2016. Although the November 2016 presidential election might bring about the first female president in the United States’ history, if women can still be paid only 79% of what men make for the same job, the fight for women’s rights is far from over.
The Women’s Right Convention was only the beginning, and the message continues to prosper until women acquire the same rights as men.