Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883)

Sojourner Truth made herself into a forceful advocate for the rights of blacks and women and was a moving preacher. She coined her own name in freedom, after rejecting her slave name, Isabella. Truth was involved in the Methodist church and a free love, mystical commune in New York before starting her career as an itinerant preacher. An illiterate Truth memorized the Bible and used it as a rhetorical tool in her speeches.

She entered both abolition and suffrage circles, periodically speaking at meetings. Truth shifted her focus after the Civil War to the freedman’s bureau, arguing that former slaves should receive land in the West.

She not only had a commanding presence and spiritualism but also advocated for civil rights and suffrage, yet most of what we know about Truth is myth. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the article “The Libyan Sibyl” for the Atlantic Monthly which gave Truth a false air of mysticism, and Frances Gage attributed the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech to Truth which left a legend for civil rights and woman rights workers. Truth is an important figure in suffrage circles for both her accomplishments and her legend.

Sojourner Truth, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-119343)

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