Ain’t I a Woman?

Victorian Era
This edition printed in:

A tabby fold ups her paws beside a white book. The book is plain with text on the cover.

The Rat’s Return

Lately, I’ve been getting a bit complacent about the back porch and the bird feeders. Since we’ve only seen one lonely and very tiny field mouse, I’ve been leaving some seed on the ground and spreading some on our garden path. The mourning doves have returned and the juncos have been loving some ground feeding too.

However, yesterday I looked out the window and saw a brown nose and some whiskers peeking out of a snowbank. I didn’t need to see anything else to know that our immortal rat had unfortunately returned. I know I only have myself to blame, but it was still hard not to grumble through shovelling off the entire porch, setting up the live trap again, and sweeping. This time I’m determined not to let it get to me like it did last summer, when it was hard to even look outside for a couple of weeks because I didn’t want to be reminded of the problem.

This isn’t an emergency. This is just an annoying yet cute little menace that we are going to re-locate eventually. Though it’s going to be a lot more difficult in the winter weather.

A book by Sojourner Truth has text on the cover: Ain't I a Woman? I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed and can any man do more than that?

The Power of Words

The copy I have of Sojourner’s Truth very famous 1851 speech Ain’t I a Woman is part of Penguin Books’ Great Ideas line, and includes not just that speech but several accounts of other speeches as well as anecdotes of Truth herself. To flesh out the volume, there are also speeches from other Black women who fought for abolition, suffrage, and women’s rights.

Truth’s words are powerful even nearly two hundred years later, and reading them is still a moving experience. She spent nearly thirty years of her life a slave, and the experience of her suffering infuses her style of speaking and isn’t to be dismissed or ignored. She may not have been able to read or write, but that in no way diminishes her skills at oratory and rhetoric. I wish somehow a recording of her voice and singing existed, because it must have been so incredible to have heard her speak and to have heard her sing as she wove irrefutable arguments about human rights.

A cat looks sleepily at the camera beside a copy of Sojourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman?

A Good Collection

Penguin has collected her speeches in one place and it allows the reader to trace the evolution of Truth’s oratory and her shifting focus from abolition to women’s rights to voting rights to suffrage. There are articles about her presence both as a house guest and as a guest in a town itself. It’s a bit of a digression from the oratory, but it’s always valuable in terms of giving the reader a picture of who Truth was as a person.

A modern reader will perhaps be struck by the religious bent of her speeches and arguments that hinge on some outdated ideas, but it’s important to realize that Truth was an essential starting point for the fight for equality for women and for suffrage. She was the beginning of the evolution of what that fight became and how it continued. Reading historical oratory often contains these struggles, so it’s important to consider content and historical background and I would argue that for this branch of literature it has a heightened importance.

A cat is curled up beside a white book with black and blue text on a plain cover.

Bonus Material

Usually, I don’t like (or read) the bonus material included with the primary material in collections such as these. But this book is a notable exception to this. Penguin carefully selected Black female orators that came directly after Truth and continued her fight. The reader can read and appreciate the evolution that I mentioned in the point previous — and that’s a valuable asset in just one thin volume of text.

Penguin also includes notes on the other orators. Not just where the speech was given and when, but also a bit about who these women were and their accomplishments. There are notes on all of Truth’s speeches as well, including when her words were altered for a transcription and who did the altering. This is also extremely important when considering context.

A tabby cat looks over its shoulder. Behind it is a black cat. In front of it is a white book.

The End of the Season

We finally took down our Christmas tree and, while I’m always a bit sad to see it go, I knew it was time. And it’s always heartening to watch the cats play in the Christmas tree box and run around the sitting room while we’re trying to put the ornaments and ribbons away.

The biggest problem is that we have to deal with the sudden dark spot in the corner of the sitting room that feels like a small abyss after being filled with festive decorations for so long. I am hoping that the warmer weather means we’ll be able to open the sitting room door and get some fresh air inside. That will make up for the lack of light at least.

We could get another lamp, but with all of the book and crafting clutter I don’t think we actually have room for one!

A tabby cat with green eyes looks over a copy of Sojourner Truth's speech Ain't I a Woman?

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