What is the thesis in "Ain't I a Woman" by Sojourner Truth?What would be the thesis statement?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This brief but powerful speech was delivered by Sojourner Truth in 1851. Its key thesis is that white men's understanding of what constitutes "a woman" is extremely limited, and does not take into account the high levels in variation between women's lives in different contexts; moreover, she is stating that women have the strength and intellect to do whatever they put their mind to, and should be afforded rights accordingly. In particular, Truth is referring to black women, who have "ploughed and planted" and been forced to "bear the lash" as slaves, but her point is universally applicable to all women outside of the genteel classes who expect to be "helped into carriages." Her concern is not so much with "negroes' rights" specifically, but with women's rights as a whole; her thesis is intersectional.

Truth brings up several objections that have been held up by men to the idea of women's rights. She suggests that men have claimed women don't have sufficient intellect, or that they should be refused rights because "Christ wasn't a woman," but she rightly points out that Christ himself was the product of a woman and God, without any male involvement.

Truth concludes by stating that women are now asking to "get the world right side up again," and that men should allow them to do so.

teacher4321 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sojourner truth was born in 1797 into slavery. She suffered through the hard labor and abuse until 1827, when she fled after her master did not follow the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827. That background information helps us understand the context of the speech she gave titled "Ain't I a Woman" at the Women's Rights Convention of 1851.

A thesis statement is defined as one sentence that outlines the claim of an essay, speech, or another text. Although Truth does not state her claim in just one sentence, we can understand the purpose of her speech after reading the first section. The main purpose of her speech was to advocate for equal rights for black women, but she also spoke to the importance of equal rights for all men and women, regardless of skin color. She accomplished this by using the question "Ain't I a woman?" repetitively throughout her speech as a way of arguing that skin color shouldn't matter. She argued that life experiences shouldn't be dependent on gender and skin color.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The thesis of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech is encapuslated in the title of the speech.  Throughout the speech, Truth uses metaphors and analogies to compare her situation as a black woman to the lives of white women and people in general.  She draws parallels between common human experience to make her audience see that she as a black woman is no different from anyone else.  She argues that because she--and other black women--suffers just like any other human being, she should be afforded rights just like others in the country.  So the thesis of Truth's speech is that black women should be afforded the same rights as others.

kamiegoldstein eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Truth simply is stating that she too, although a black female, is a woman. She works hard like a man and is tough like a man but she still is a woman and deserves to be treated with tenderness and consideration just as white women and women of means are.Truth, is poor and black yes, but still a woman and still worthy of being treated as such.

The thesis of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" is stated in the title. Yet, the historical context of her speech is critical to understanding the profundity of this thesis. The impromptu speech is delivered in 1851 at the Women's Convention held in Akron, Ohio. This is eleven years before the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. It is sixty-nine years before women attain the right to vote in the United States through the suffrage movement. Truth is doubly oppressed in nineteenth-century America, and she speaks from her experience as both African American and woman. What may seem to us as a simple statement of identity, was in fact a strong and empowering assertion for Truth in 1851. Her speech asserts that she is human, she is a woman, she has experienced life in enslavement, and she is as worthy of social and political equality in the United States. It is an important expression of self-identity despite the repressive institutional structures permitting continued abuse and subjugation of African Americans in the antebellum American South.

Importantly, Truth's conversation brings to the North both the condition of slavery and the condition of womanhood. The North did not permit slavery but did comply with racist laws and the return of formerly enslaved peoples to the South. Truth specifically addresses white men because this dominant social class has the capacity to change laws to represent fair and equal opportunities for minorities and women, but white men (as a generalized majority) often chose to deny these rights in favor of perpetuating slave-based commerce and patriarchal socio-political power. Men who argued against emancipation and suffrage frequently cited myths of innate biological differences among races and genders as defense. Truth also brings her speech to white women of the North. This marks a major transition in African American women abolitionists as they begin seeking identification with and change through influential white women of the North (See Harriett Jacobs's Incidents in the of a Slave Girl for another example of address and effort at establishing sympathy and solidarity between the enslaved of the South and the white women of the North).

So, simply stated, Sojourner Truth is a woman, and her rhetorical question can elicit no other answer. Yet, the implication of her speech is that an unjust society entrenched in racial and gender discriminating power hierarchies has denied her identity and her right to equal opportunities. Truth's expressive language reinforces for us in the twenty-first century, as it did in the nineteenth century, that this racial and gender discrimination is senseless.

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