Sojourner Truth (1797–1883)

Each Friday, FSU’s giving a shout-out to one prominent feminist whose work for social change has made herstory. This week’s feminist is Sojourner Truth. Ms. Truth was born into slavery in New York as Isabella Baumfree (after her father’s owner, Baumfree). She was sold several times, and married a fellow slave, Thomas, while owned by the John Dumont family. When New York law emancipated all slaves in 1827, Isabella had already left Thomas and run away with her youngest child to work for another family. Upon discovering that the Dumonts had sold one of her children to slavery in Alabama after the 1827 law’s passage, Isabella sued successfully for his return. Isabella experienced a religious conversion and in 1843 took the name Sojourner Truth and became a traveling preacher. Ms. Truth connected with the abolitionist movement in the late 1840s, establishing herself as a vocal advocate of abolition and then of women’s suffrage. She raised food and clothing contributions for Black regiments during the Civil War and met with Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to challenge street car segregation by race. Ms. Truth again spoke widely after the War ended, mostly on religion, “Negro” and women’s rights, and on temperance, though immediately after the Civil War she tried to organize efforts to provide jobs for black refugees from the war. Ms. Truth remained active until her grandson and companion died in 1875, after which her health deteriorated. She died in 1883 of infected leg ulcers.

Quotation: “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?” Goodness, yes.

Biographical information from