On July 19, 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, sparking a women’s movement that challenged both the church and the world with the good news that in Jesus Christ, there is neither male nor female.
Isabella Baumfree, born a slave in New York State, heard the voice of Jesus speak to her in the woods where her mother had taught her about the God who led Israel out of Egypt. After walking away from her master’s home, she found refuge with a family that organized to purchase her freedom. Following another radical conversion experience, Isabella took the name Sojourner Truth and committed to preach Christ’s liberating word throughout the land.
Her most famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” was delivered at a Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio, just three years after the initial gathering at Seneca Falls that began on this day in 1848. Here’s a little snippet of her fiery message:
I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me — and ain’t I a woman? I have born’d five childrun and seen ’em mos’ all sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard — and ain’t I a woman? . . . Den dat little man is back dar, he say women can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ warn’t a woman. Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him!
From the Hebrew midwives to Queen Esther to Sojourner Truth, Dorothy Day, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, sisters and mothers in the faith have led the struggle for liberation. This week in North Carolina, we had a chance to hear from 92 year-old Rosa Nell Eaton. If you have a few minutes to watch, you might catch a little of Sojourner Truth’s spirit today.