7.18.2005

What If?

I've long wondered what would have happened if, in the mid-1800's, the abolitionists and the suffragists had united to demand equality for all rather than struggling separately for equality for African-Americans and equality for women.

At the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851, many of the suffragists were concerned when Sojourner Truth arrived. Throughout the first day, she sat quietly in the corner, listening and watching as the men, particularly the clergy, heckled and berated the 'unnatural' women attempting to speak for women's rights. The suffragists did not want their infant cause mixed up with the cause of the abolitionists. Many advised the chairwoman not to permit Sojourner Truth to speak.

On the second day, Sojourner Truth rose and approached the podium. The suffragists continued to whisper to the chairwoman, "Don't let her speak." The clergy and other men present hissed.

Sojourner's impromptu speech, handed down through history as "Ain't I A Woman?" has become legendary. Powerful and moving, it spoke above the hypocrisy of the crowd.

This is the power of words.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mac said...

Bitch, PhD has a rousing row going on in the comments section about this story, there's also less-optimistic coverage here.

There are always those who would like to define "person" in terms of exclusion, I think. Many of those attempts are terribly subtle, but they use language of exclusion, nonetheless.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

In Lit Theory, it's known as the language of the "other". In order to explain what something is, you must first understand what it is not, so you always must start with pre-conceived notions or ideas. It's like the age-old joke when the little boy asks the little girl, "Which one of us is the opposite sex?"

BTW, if anyone is interested in reading a first-hand account of life for women in Africa, I recommend Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja and Layli Miller Bashir. It's also a startling look at the US Immigration System from the perspective of a refugee seeking asylum.

10:21 PM  

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