Know Ohio: Ain't I A Woman

SINCE IT BECAME A STATE 214 YEARS AGO, OHIO HAS BEEN THE BIRTHPLACE OF INNOVATIONS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD AND MANY NOTABLE PEOPLE – LIKE PRESIDENTS AND ASTRONAUTS. 

BUT TODAY, WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT A POWERFUL SPEECH – ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SPEECHES IN OUR COUNTRY’S HISTORY – AND IT WAS DELIVERED – WHERE ELSE? – RIGHT HERE IN OHIO! KNOW OHIO’S MARY FECTEAU HAS MORE.

MARY:

WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL! OH, WHAT? THAT’S NOT NEWS TO YOU? WELL, BACK IN THE MID-1800’S THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A VERY CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENT.
BACK THEN, MOST AMERICANS ASSUMED THAT THERE WAS A NATURAL ORDER IN SOCIETY – WHICH SAID THAT WOMEN SHOULD BE MEEK, AND OBEDIENT TO THE MEN IN HER LIFE. AND, BECAUSE OF THIS, WOMEN WERE DENIED EDUCATION AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, VOTING AND PROPERTY RIGHTS, AND EQUAL WAGES. AND, OF COURSE, THEY WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE POLITICAL OPINIONS OR SPEAK PUBLICALLY.

WELL, SOME UNRULY BUCKEYES HAD OTHER IDEAS…IN FACT, SOME OF THE FIRST WOMEN TO FIGHT THESE UNFAIR BELIEFS WERE OHIOANS! 

ACTIVISTS LIKE OBERLIN’S LUCY STONE, ASHTABULA’S BETSY MIX COWLES, AND MARIETTA’S FRANCIS DANA GAGE WERE SOME OF THE EARLIEST WOMEN TO PUBLICALLY DEMAND RIGHTS. INTERESTINGLY, MANY OF THESE EARLY FEMALE ACTIVISTS WERE ALSO INVOLVED IN THE ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENT – WHICH WAS AN EVEN BIGGER ISSUE OF THE TIME.
BUT, AFTER A BIG CONVENTION FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS WAS HELD IN SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK IN 1848, OHIO WOMEN DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING SIMILAR HERE – HOLDING OHIO WOMEN'S CONVENTIONS IN SALEM AND AKRON IN 1850 AND 1851.

THE 1851 AKRON CONVENTION WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL, AND BROUGHT MORE WOMEN AND MEN INTO THE MOVEMENT, BUT THIS CONVENTION MIGHT NOT EVEN BE REMEMBERED, WERE IT NOT FOR ONE WOMAN – AND HER POWERFUL WORDS. IN FACT, IT’S A SPEECH SO MOVING, THAT IT’S STILL WIDELY READ TODAY, OVER 160 YEARS LATER!
SOJOURNER TRUTH WAS A FORMER SLAVE FROM NEW YORK. SHE ESCAPED SLAVERY IN 1826, THEN, FOUGHT IN THE COURTS TO AVOID HAVING HER SON SOLD INTO SLAVERY IN THE SOUTH. AT THE CONVENTION AT WHICH MANY OF THE SPEAKERS WERE WHITE WOMEN, SHE TOUCHED UPON THE DOUBLE BURDEN OF BEING A WOMAN AND BLACK.
[SPEECH EXCERPT] 

SOJOURNER’S FULL SPEECH WAS TRANSCRIBED BY MARIUS ROBINSON AND PUBLISHED IN HIS NEWSPAPER, THE ANTI-SLAVERY BUGLE. ALONG WITH THE TRANSCRIPTION, ROBINSON WROTE: “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TRANSFER IT TO PAPER, OR CONVEY ANY ADEQUATE IDEA OF THE EFFECT IT PRODUCED UPON THE AUDIENCE. THOSE ONLY CAN APPRECIATE IT WHO SAW HER POWERFUL FORM, HER WHOLE-SOULED, EARNEST GESTURE, AND LISTENED TO HER STRONG AND TRUTHFUL TONES.” 
TRUTH’S RAW, HONEST WORDS STAND THE TEST OF TIME. TODAY, IT’S KNOWN AS THE AIN’T I A WOMAN? SPEECH AND IT’S BEEN RECITED FAMOUS WRITERS LIKE MAYA ANGELOU AND ALICE WALKER, ALONG WITH FAMOUS ACTRESSES AND POLITICIANS. AND IT STILL INSPIRES US TO CALL OUT HYPOCRISY AND DRAW UPON OUR STRUGGLES TO MAKE US STRONGER.   
 


Instuctional Links

 

Primary Document: Project Gutenberg, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Olive Gilbert and Sojourner Truth | ebook of Truth’s audiobiography. Available online & in different ebook formats

Encyclopedia Article: World Book Student, Sojourner Truth | May need password

Instructional Unit: Sojourner Truth Memorial, Sojourner Truth, Mini-Unit | PDF of lesson plans for famous abolitionists with resources & handouts

Lesson Plan: National Math & Science Institute, Characterization and Nonfiction: Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman.” | Includes resources for teaching unit including text of “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.

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