Today, I’d like to discuss three women in history predominantly known for standing against the current by whatever means necessary. These women are a testament to the fortitude that is true femininity. All of them were mothers. All of them sacrificed themselves for the greater good. They laid down their lives for others, even when they had the chance not to do so.
I’ve selected these three women to demonstrate the generational changes each woman’s efforts resulted in. All of these women contributed largely to various civil rights movements. Their hard work is present in social activism. They combatted segregation, slavery, poverty, and ignorance. They exemplify freedom for black women and women everywhere.
This is also the first in a series of Wednesday dedications to my “woman crushes.” I’ve chosen to focus on general civil rights activists and historically significant women. Next week, I’ll address literary figures, followed by scientists, concluding with artists. I won’t be giving a full-on biography of each woman, as they all have numerous sites which do this. Instead, I’ll merely highlight the contributions they’re most known for.
Sojourner Truth, née Isabella Baumfree
Born with one name, Truth elected a new moniker on being born again in Christ. She never learned to read or write but so great was her impact, that people wrote her speeches down. She actually orated nationwide, advocating for abolition.
Her childhood master promised her freedom but she was denied. She fell in love with another master’s slave, and was denied marriage. She walked out on her master and was denied her children. Left and right, Truth was denied her rights as a citizen, a woman, and a human. She was not denied the truth. She met greats like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Abraham Lincoln. A simple woman who made great changes, paving the way for the future. Below is her most famous speech.
Ain’t I A Woman?
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
Moses of her people, a true lady of the underground. Harriet Tubman did not found the Underground Railroad but used it to escape her master. She then became one of the most influential conductors on the railroad, transitioning it to Canada when the Fugitive Slave Act came to be. Canada outlawed slavery and provided a safe haven from the bounty hunters invading the north.
So much of a thorn in the slave trade’s side, she merited a bounty herself of $40,000. That equates to about $1.2 million by today’s standard. She was a wanted woman by the Confederates for more than her time on the Railroad. She also spied for the Union, in addition to nursing wounded soldiers.
She sat on a bus when she wasn’t supposed to. She happened to be tired of it all at just the right time. The local chapter of the NAACP sought an opportunity to protest segregation and Parks gave it to them. Headed by E.D. Nixon, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.
It started with a citywide refusal to use buses. African Americans, walked, carpooled or taxied themselves to work. This escalated to reinstatement of outdated boycott laws and arrests of taxi-goers. The community stuck to it, though. 381 days later, the boycott reached its end and legislation began to repeal transportation segregation in Montgomery, Alabama.