Sojourner Truth, woman’s rights speech (1851)

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?

INTRODCUTION

Born enslaved in New York in 1799 as Isabella, Sojourner Truth changed her name in 1843.  Truth grew up speaking a Dutch dialect and probably spoke English with a noticeable Dutch accent.  She was enslaved in New York during a period of gradual abolition (which ended in 1827).  As a free woman, Truth joined a series of utopian religious communities in New York and Massachusetts.  Her stirring 1851 speech to the Woman’s Rights convention in Akron, Ohio drew immediate attention, but became even more mythical (and somewhat distorted) by later slight mistranslations of her words (and dialect).  The version of the speech below was the version recorded by newspapers in 1851. Truth was about six feet tall and imposing presence as a speaker and activist, fighting for both the abolition of slavery and women’s rights.

SOURCE FORMAT:  News report of public speech

WORD COUNT:  344 words

TEXT

May I say a few words? 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 women have a pint and 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 cant take more than our pint’ll hold.

The poor men seem to be all in confusion, and dont 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 wont be so much trouble.

Truth
Sojourner Truth (Library of Congress)

I cant 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 woman who bore him. Man, where is 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, and he is surely between-a hawk and a buzzard.

CITATION: Sojourner Truth speech, Woman’s Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio, May 29, 1851, published first in Salem Anti-Slavery Bugle (June 21, 1851) reprinted in Sojourner Truth Project

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