News | March 12, 2020

Former resident helped fight for women’s rights

By Tim Hoyle DLA Disposition Services

As Defense Logistics Agency employees in Battle Creek, Michigan, observe Women’s History Month they should remember Sojourner Truth, a former local resident who advocated universal rights for men and women alike of all races.

According to the Biography Channel’s website, some of Truth's opinions were considered radical, even among her abolitionist colleagues. She criticized them for failing to seek civil rights for black women as well as men and expressed concern that the movement would fizzle after achieving victories for black men, leaving both white and black women without suffrage and other key political rights.

Truth’s best known speech on suffrage occurred in May 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron. Her improvised remarks would come to be known as the "Ain't I a Woman?" speech, but it has been questioned whether the phrase was actually used.  Biography noted that the first version of the speech was published in the Ohio newspaper, The Anti-Slavery Bugle, but the editor’s account did not include the famous question at all.

According to the article, Truth criticized another speaker for arguing that “… 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,” Truth said. "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!”

A former slave, Truth helped recruit African-Americans to fight in the Civil War to end slavery. She also helped raise funds to support them logistically. Besides universal suffrage, Truth also campaigned for prison reform and an end to capital punishment. Truth testified before the Michigan state legislature seeking an end to the practice.

Truth died in November 1883 and lies buried in Battle Creek’s Oak Hill Cemetery.

Angela Tabron, an equal opportunity employment specialist and Federal Women’s Program manager, said it is important during National Women’s History Month to remember Truth and the accomplishments of countless women whose lives and works have enriched and transformed America. Tabron said knowing such empowering stories of women’s historic and present accomplishments can inspire a sense of possibility in everyone.

“The impact of women’s history might seem abstract to some, and less pressing than the immediate struggles of working women today,” Tabron said. “However, to ignore the vital role that women’s accomplishments play in our own lives would be a great mistake. We draw strength and inspiration from trailblazing women who came before us – and remarkable women among us today. It is because of them that we are.”