Most people are familiar with the popular version of Sojourner Truth’s famous, “Ain’t I a woman” speech but they have no idea that this popular version is not Sojourner’s speech and is vastly different from her original 1851 speech.
This popular but inaccurate version was written and published in 1863, (12 years after Sojourner gave the “Ain’t I a woman” speech), by a white abolitionist named Frances Dana Barker Gage. Curiously, Gage not only changed all of Sojourner’s words but chose to represent Sojourner speaking in a stereotypical ‘southern black slave accent’, rather than in her distinct upper New York State low-Dutch accent. Frances Gage’s actions were well intended and served the suffrage and women’s rights movement at the time; however, by today’s standards of ethical journalism, her actions were a gross misrepresentation of Sojourner Truth’s words and identity. By changing Truth’s words and her dialect to that of a stereotypical southern slave, Frances Gage effectively erased Sojourner’s Dutch heritage and her authentic voice. As well as unintentionally adding to the oversimplification of the American slave culture and furthering the eradication of our nations Northern slave history. Frances Gage admitted that her amended version had “given but a faint sketch” of Sojourner’s original speech but she felt justified and believed her version stronger and more palatable to the American public then Sojourner’s original version.
The most authentic version of Sojourner Truth’s, “Ain’t I a woman,” speech was first published in 1851 by Truth’s good friend Rev. Marius Robinson in the Anti-Slavery Bugle and was titled, “On Woman’s Rights”. This website is dedicated to re-introducing the original transcription of the speech and Sojourner’s authentic voice.