17 pages 34 minutes read

Sojourner Truth

Ain't I A Woman

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1851

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Symbols & Motifs


Much of Truth’s speech focuses on the physical and emotional strength of women. As a former enslaved person, Truth performed hard labor and withstood physical pain. In her address, she references this personal history: “I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns” (Paragraph 2). Truth aims to prove that women possess physical strength. Prejudices about the supposed weakness of women should not be a basis for denying equal rights.

Truth also recounts her suffering as a mother. She states: “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” (Paragraph 2). Considering that motherhood was a key feature of womanhood in American society at the time, Truth’s reference to her experience as a mother establishes her similarity to other women, especially the white women in her audience.

Pints and Quarts

Truth uses the symbols of pints and quarts to create a visual representation of the rights and resources suffragettes are calling for. She argues that women are only asking for what they can already “hold” (Paragraph 3), which is less than a man currently holds. She states that women want only a “half measure full” (Paragraph 3) compared to the quart that men have.