[While we rebooted the New Narratives Facebook Page feature of the woman philosopher of the month, it occurred to us that we might do better with a blog, (which can always be shared on social media channels). By way of transition we will be republishing our recent (2021) posts on this blog.]
Sojourner Truth gave a speech often referred to as her 'Ain't I a woman?' speech at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio in May 1851.
Born Isabella Bomfree in 1797, Truth escaped slavery and with an abolitionist family secured her freedom in 1827. She became an itinerant preacher, and though she never learned to read or write, she dictated her autobiography _The Narrative of Sojourner Truth_ (1850), and became involved with the abolitionist and women's rights movements. She died in 1883.
'Ain't I a Woman?', though a speech that is only a few minutes long, packs in a lot. Truth argues that women are equal to men physically, equal to men intellectually, and she draws on scripture to argue that women are intrinsically valuable (a woman having given birth to Jesus) and that they ought to be able to try to right the wrongs of the world (if in fact Eve is responsible for them). She also puts on display the intersection and interconnection of the abolitionist and women's rights movements. But the line that sticks in my head is this: I am a woman's rights. Rights for her are not abstractions but lived and owned, embodied in each of our very being.
There are two different versions of her speech. One was transcribed by Marius Robinson and published in June 1851. The other was published by Frances Gage in 1863. You can read them side-by-side (and listen to a recording!) at https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/compare-the-speeches/ What are the key differences in the versions? What questions do the differences in how the speech is reported raise for you?