Friday, November 9, 2007

Ain't I a Woman?

This is Isabella Baumfree. You thought I was going to say Sojourner Truth, didn't you? Well I will, later.
But when she was born, into Slavery, she was Isabella.She was born in New York, one of 13 children, and lived on an estate where only Dutch was spoken. In 1806, when she was about 9, she was sold for 100.00 to another "master" in New York. He was not a kind man, and would beat his slaves regularly. 2 years later, she was sold again, this time for 105.00. to a tavern keeper, then 18 months later sold yet again for 175.00. The wife of her new owner didn't like her, and strove to make her life miserable. She fell in love with a slave from a neighboring farm. His "owners" were having none of that, and beat him severely. He impregnated her, but she never saw him again after the beating. She herself was forced into marriage to an older slave, whom she bore four more children.

In 1799, New York began the process of legislating the abolition of slavery. Her "master" had promised her freedom a year before the state emancipation for good behavior, but later reneged on that promise, saying her hand injury had slowed her down. So she spun 100 pounds of wool, then, escaped, only able to take her youngest child. She found her way to a Quaker family who took her in, and lived with them until the Emancipation of New York was in effect. She learned that one of her sons had been sold illegally, and, with the help of the Quakers, she took the issue to court, and got her son back. While living with the Quakers, she became a devout Christian. In 1829, she moved to NYC and worked as a housekeeper. She eventually, in 1843 changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and told her friends "The Spirit calls me, I must go". So she left, and traveled, preaching about abolition.She found herself in Massachusetts, living at the Northampton Association of Education, an organization founded by abolitionists, and supporting women's rights, and religious tolerance. They were unable to make their small commune work, however, and she ended up having to go back to work as a house keeper. To pass time, she dictated her memoirs to a friend (she never did learn how to read, or write) and a book was then published about her life. In 1851, she went to the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention, and delivered her famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?" It went as follows:
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.

Over the next decade, she continued to go talk to audiences everywhere.. at one point, someone accused her of being a man, (she was 6 foot tall, very strong) so she opened her blouse and showed him her breasts. During the Civil war, she helped to recruit black troops for the Union Army. She even met Abraham Lincoln while working in Washington. She wrote a song called "The Valiant Soldiers" for the 1st Michigan Colored Regiment, and sung it in Detroit, and Washington.

She died, in 1883, at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan.


CamiKaos said...

I love these posts

and she certainly was one hell of a woman.

sybil law said...

She rocked.