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Sojourner Truth—Speech

Speakers give speeches to share their thoughts and experiences with an audience. Often they try to persuade listeners to change their ideas. Below is part of a speech in which Sojourner Truth answered a man who thought that women needed the help and protection of men, but not equal rights with men.


Primary Source

“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 ain't I a woman?…”

Excerpted from Sojourner Truth's “Ain't I a Woman?” speech in Akron, Ohio, December 1851.


Background

Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 in upstate New York. She was named Isabella Baumfree. She grew up enslaved, but as an adult she escaped and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. Truth was an outspoken abolitionist who worked to end slavery. She also believed strongly in women's rights. She gave many speeches during her life, including this one that she delivered in a women's convention in Akron, Ohio in December 1851. In her speech, Truth focuses on winning rights for all women, including African Americans. She repeats phrases and uses short, surprising sentences to make her point.