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"Ain't I a Woman" | Sojourner Truth, with Video Readings

"Ain't I a Woman" | Sojourner Truth, with Video Readings

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Published by Rbg Street Scholar
A speech, delivered extemporaneously,
by Sojourner Truth
A speech, delivered extemporaneously,
by Sojourner Truth

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Rbg Street Scholar on Nov 03, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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"Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth
 A speech, delivered extemporaneously,by Sojourner Truth
"Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth
Ain't I a Woman?
This article is about the speech by Sojourner Truth.For the book, see Ain't I a Woman? (book). 
"Ain't I a Woman?"
is the name given to a speech,delivered extemporaneously, bySojourner Truth,  (1797
1883), born into slavery in New York State.Some time after gaining her freedom in 1827, shebecame a well known anti-slavery speaker. Herspeech was delivered at the Women's Convention inAkron, Ohio,on May 29, 1851, and was notoriginally known by any title. It was briefly reportedin two contemporary newspapers, and a transcript of the speech waspublished in the
 Anti-Slavery Bugle
on June 21, 1853.The speech received wider publicity in 1863 during theAmericanCivil War whenFrances Dana Barker Gage published a different version, one which became known as
 Ain't I a Woman?
because of its oft-repeated question. This later version was the one recorded in most history books.
Different versions
The first reports of the speech were published by the 
 on June 6, 1851, and by
 five days later. Both of these accounts were brief, lacking a full transcription.
 The first complete transcription was published on June 21 in the 
 by MariusRobinson, an abolitionist and newspaper editor who acted as the convention's recordingsecretary.
Robinson's full account of the speech included not one instance of the question"Ain't I a Woman," let alone four repetitions of it. Instead, the only questions that Robinsonrecorded was Truth asking were: "...can any man do more than that?" and "Man, where was yourpart?"
Sojourner Truth
"Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth
Twelve years later in May 1863,Frances Dana Barker Gage published a very different version. In it, she gave Truth many of thespeech characteristics of Southern slaves, and she inserted newmaterial that Robinson didn't report. Gage's version of the speechwas republished in 1875, 1881 and 1889, and became the historicstandard. This version is known as "Ain't I a Woman?" after the oft-repeated refrain added by Gage.
Truth's own speech pattern wasnot Southern in nature, as she was born and raised in New York, andspoke only Dutch until she was nine years old.
 Additions that Gage made to Truth's speech include the ideas thatshe could bear the lash as well as a man, that no one ever offered herthe traditional gentlemanly deference to a woman, and that most of her 13 children were sold away from her into slavery. Truth iswidely believed to have had five children, with one sold away, andwas never known to boast more children.
Further inaccuracies inGage's 1863 recollection of the convention conflict with her owncontemporary report: Gage wrote in 1851 that Akron in general andthe press in particular were largely friendly to the woman's rightsconvention, but in 1863 she wrote that the convention leaders werefearful of the "mobbish" opponents.
 Other eyewitness reports of Truth's speech told a different story, one where all faces were"beaming with joyous gladness" at the session where Truth spoke;that not "one discordant note" interrupted the harmony of theproceedings.
 In contrast to Gage's later version, Truth was warmlyreceived by the convention-goers, the majority of whom were long-standing abolitionists, friendly to progressive ideas of race and civilrights.

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