Study Guide

Ain't I a Woman? Quotes

By Sojourner Truth, a.k.a. Isabella Baumfree

  • Women and Femininity

    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! (4-5)

    Sojourner Truth repudiates the general male point of view. Women aren't weak…and Truth is a case in point. But she's also mentioning the fact that Black women aren't considered as feeble and delicate as white women: this is a case of racism heaped on top of sexism.

    And ain't I a woman? (6, 10, 12, 14)

    Truth's basically challenging the audience to look at her as a woman, to look at what she's both capable of and has been through, and then tell her that she doesn't deserve any rights.

    Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! (19)

    Can't you just hear the complete exasperation in this line? This was a fav point for suffrage opponents…and it's insanely illogical.

    Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. (21-23)

    Truth is challenging the status quo of Christian-influenced society norms. It was enormously unthinkable in the mid-1800s to put woman before man, especially in relation to God's plan. And yet, Sojourner did anyway, making her audience think about how legitimating discrimination based on the Bible might not actually have logic backing it up.

    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! (24)

    The men better be running in fear of what the female of the species can accomplish, even after centuries of being punished for Eve's apple-snacking. The cadre of determined suffragists could easily be as infamous as Eve, as long as they banded together and stood firm on what they wanted.

  • Slavery

    I think that 'twixt the n****es of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon (2).

    When over half the population cries out against the injustices of the privileged, things are bound to change. Also, notice how Truth doesn't differentiate "n****es" into men and women, but made it clear that Northern women were the ones driving suffrage.

    There was division even in groups focused on changing the world. White women were the ones driving the bus for suffrage, so they tended to focus on gaining support from white women. Sojourner was one of the few to point out that Black woman were women too.

    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? (7-10)

    This subtly points out that Sojourner—a woman—had been a slave. It's hypocritical to say that women are too feeble and dainty for labor and logical thought when thousands of Black women were enslaved and engaged in back-breaking labor.

    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? (11-12)

    Again, Truth's using her experiences as a slave as a wake-up call for the audience. Slavery didn't respect or protect women, yet society claimed females needed to be protected. Anyone spotting the logic problem?

    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? (13-14)

    This is a direct appeal to the women in the audience to recognize Black woman in the crusade for women's rights. Truth is stating that the quest for equal rights needed to go way beyond giving women the right to vote…especially when a good portion of the female demographic was still enslaved.

  • Injustice

    Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. (1)

    Here, Truth was easing the audience in to anticipate that most of her arguments for suffrage would also serve as arguments for abolition. And, oh yeah: she was making fun of all the long-winded speeches that came before her.

    Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? (5-6)

    Instead of focusing about being denied the right to vote like earlier speeches at the convention, Sojourner was concerned with being treated fairly as a Black woman. She was trying to focus the point that there could be no equality for the female of the species until all women were able to enjoy the same rights.

    Instead of focusing about being denied the right to vote like earlier speeches at the convention, Sojourner was concerned with being treated fairly as a Black woman. She was trying to focus the point that there could be no equality for the female of the species until all women were able to enjoy the same 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? (18)

    This metaphor spells out the inequality between men and women, and between white people and Black people. Truth is basically saying the only reason to deny somebody rights was out of pure spite.

    Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman (19)!

    Subjugating an entire gender based on one male figure—no matter how important—just isn't fair. It's also not terribly logical.

    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. (24-25)

    The actual reason to oppose suffrage wasn't that women were illogical or weak, but that the men power didn't want to see their established patterns upset by a massive increase in voters.

  • Religion

    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! (13)

    Can we just take a minute to mull over how tragic this quote is? Truth's children, siblings, and parents were all taken from her as a result of slavery. She had only her faith to turn to for comfort. She came out the stronger for it, but many others were broken.

    Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! (19)

    Can you imagine being the one called out for this? The maleness of Christ is used to argue for the superiority of men. The specificity of "that little man in black" can be taken as standing in for ministers of small mind who argued against suffrage, abolition, and equal rights based on Christian dogma.

    Where did your Christ come from? (20)

    Sojourner liked this query so much, she made it twice. This is one of those conveniently forgotten points when arguing for male supremacy, so you better believe she was going to drive it home: there would have been no Christ without Mary.

    Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. (21-23)

    Mary was kind of integral to the whole giving-birth-to-Christ process, so can the argument that women are inferior to men be put to rest?

    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! (24)

    Truth lobbed this zinger at the men who used religion as an excuse to refuse women full rights. Eve is notorious in the Bible for getting humankind kicked out of Eden, but she still gets credit for shaking things up. Let's not forget that women can have an impact on the course of history, too.