"Ain't I a Woman?"

In 1852, while lecturing against slavery in various parts of the East and Middle West, [Sojourner Truth] decided to move on to Akron, Ohio, where a woman's rights convention was in session. Woman's rights was an issue only a bit less unpopular than slavery itself. Any convention of its advocates was sure to attract friends and foes alike, and the meetings very probably would develop into oratorical free-for-alls.

Among the strongest opponents of the idea were members of the clergy. They were in attendance in large numbers at the Akron convention. But they and their opposition had been expected; the meetings had been prepared with such a contingency in mind. What had not been anticipated was a tall, gaunt black woman in a gray dress and white collar, surmounted by an uncouth sunbonnet, who walked deliberately into the church where the meetings were being held, and with great poise and dignity marched up the aisle to take a seat upon the pulpit steps.

Inevitably the rumor circled round the hall, "Sojourner!" Surprise among the leaders speedily yielded to chagrin, and then to open disapproval. Here was a mighty perilous bit of presumptuousness and intrusion. Woman's rights nothing, their enemies would say - this was merely a disguised abolition affair.

The buzz of disapproval was very pronounced.

Affairs became so confused that the chairman had to rap vigorously for quiet and order. The morning session progressed like a procession across egg shells. All the while, Sojourner remained seated, quietly crouched down against the wall in a corner of the pulpit stairs, with her sunbonnet shading her eyes, her elbows on her knees, and her chin resting upon her broad hard palm....

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