For a long time, women were viewed as lesser beings than men in almost every culture in the world. Both Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are women activists who in different ways tried to fight for women’s rights. Both of them existed at a time when women were not viewed as fit to lead politically or in public offices. Other than just being kept at home, women’s privileges were limited, thus, making them inferior to men morally, physically, and intellectually. Therefore, activism against women’s rights started in the ancient days and this paper explores the lives of Truth and Stanton, with a view to show the gravity of women’s oppression in society.
Men were the only group of people who would get opportunities to speak for a community. Men and women were not supposed to interact freely for whatever cause, something that made these two groups of people lacks understanding of each other (Lewis n.p). In this connection, it is the view of Truth and Stanton that women are equally powerful as men. This idea of feminism has had overwhelming effects on the Western culture in the last century and is now invading the Eastern culture. Women required someone to air out their grievances for them to saved from men (Truth 29). In education, boys and girls went to different schools and as usual, boys’ schools had better facilities to facilitate learning as opposed to girls’ schools; after all, a woman’s education was not that important. In a family setup, all the property was recorded under the man in that family, and in case of a divorce; the woman would be left with nothing. At around 1972, female activists began to fight this unfair treatment of women. They used varied ways to prove that women could actually do things that only men were allowed to do.
The truth was born a slave in New York City at a time that slavery was the norm, especially for the blacks. At an age of nine, Truth was sold into slavery after her mother’s master died. From then, Truth was sold to many other people where she would do farm jobs among other slavery tasks. Her experience in slavery made her see the injustices that women were facing and more so the black women. “how can you say that women require to be helped to jump ditches and I have never seen any man carry me?” (Truth 28). After her time of service, Truth worked as a domestic in New York, where she gained a reputation as a gifted preacher. She moved throughout England and New York preaching against slavery and women discrimination something that not many people were willing to stand for at the time. As a former slave and a black woman, Truth connected easily with her audience and gained many followers. She used her own experience to prove that women could do the same tasks as men.
Truth in her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” stated that, “I am a woman and I have to say I have as much muscle as any man and can do as much work as any man. I have chopped, husked, and mowed, can any man do more than that? I can eat as much as any man can eat and for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman has a pint and a man a quart, you need not be afraid to give us our rights” (28).
On the other hand, Stanton grew up in a well up family allowing her to get access to better education, unlike the rest of the women at that time. Through her father, Stanton gained knowledge in matters of law. She was often concerned about the little attention women were gaining in society even at the family level, and as a result, began to read her father’s law journals. Stanton was a bright student and although she qualified for the best colleges, she could not attend since they were only male colleges. “I wish you are born a man because these brains will go on to waste just because you are a woman” Santon’s father lamented. That in itself explains how women were viewed at that time. When Stanton and others ran away from college in protest for women’s rights, she joined Weld, a renowned human activist. Her father was supportive of her course, even though he tried to discourage her at first by asking if a woman of her position was disadvantaged as a woman. Being well acquainted, she reminded him of the many laws that favored men at the expense of women, from which he began to give her law-related examples that would further illustrate her point. Stanton began her quest for ending slavery and women’s discrimination and she was instrumental in revolutionalizing women’s rights to vote.
Lewis wrote Stanton’s speech, which stated, “ we have not met here to discuss our rights or wrongs and not to propose the legislature to go into details into our social lives but to uplift woman’s fallen divinity upon men species” (n.p).
Both Truth and Stanton have been viewed as great female activists who fought against slavery and female discrimination, although they were from different courses of life. Truth is from the minority group, the blacks, while Stanton is from the elites, those people who were not as much affected by women’s discrimination as the rest of the world. This disparity creates the difference in which the two women approached the issue of social prejudice. Truth addresses the issue from her own personal experience while Stanton is guided more by what she sees other women go through. In her speeches, Truth quotes from her own experience during slavery and also uses her lame hand to show that women can still work even when not fit. She is driven by the fact that she feels qualified as a woman and urges the rest of the women to feel the same other than hiding back to the mediocre life that men subject them to. She uses repetition and keeps asking, “Aren’t I a woman, women should rise up and fight for their rights at the same time making them feel worth” (Truth 29). On the other hand, Stanton uses the law to address her audience. She uses several examples from the way other women are treated in public, although as her father puts it, she is not among the disadvantaged. In other words, Stanton is fighting for other women’s rights and not her own, since we can see her receiving public recognition.
Another difference between the approach in which Truth and Stanton use to address women’s discrimination is the fact that Truth ran her campaigns individually, while Stanton collaborated with other activists. Although Truth gained many followers, she would run the show on her own on most occasions. Stanton, on the other hand, collaborated with many people, such as her college fellows like Weld and her husband in the latter stages. Her father also is a renowned lawyer who had a great influence on her work. These partnerships with great people created a platform for her to address issues of equality at a high level (Lewis n.p). As a result, she managed to influence the government and the elites where some of the issues she suggested are now laws.
As a politician, Stanton was always disgruntled with how female delegates were handled. At a political rally, women delegates could not be allowed to sit with the rest of their male counterparts, instead, they were given seats in hidden places. Stanton fought against this kind of treatment among other issues between male and female delegates. Similarly, Truth fought against a similar issue about sitting arrangements in the transport sector. As a result, a law was formed that indicated equality in seating arrangements among travelers. As a frequent traveler in Washington, she ensured that the law was followed to the letter and in case conductors defected from that she sued them.
Truth used the injustices done to her family to illustrate her points. On the other hand, Stanton uses her family’s support to get those in power to listen to her quest. Her father and her husband are the two main family members who show a lot of support for her work although not publicly on her father’s side. In addition, Stanton’s level of education allowed her to interact and address social injustices done on women from an intellectual point of view. Her knowledge in law and matters of the land acted as proof that women can still hold office just like men at workplaces. Her focus was mainly on the intellectual ability of women in that women could perform better in education and workplaces than men. Her fight was to ensure that the education sector provided equal opportunities for the girl child as they did for the boy child. As stated earlier, girls and boys did not attend similar schools even when their intellectual ability proved similar since education for a girl child was considered a waste. On the other hand, Truth addresses the masses considering the fact that she did not have much of the formal education. As Stanton focused on bringing social justice from the higher levels, Truth used her influence to move the masses. Truth handled the normal day-to-day activities from the ground, issues like sitting arrangements in public transport among other things. She mostly debated about the physical ability of a woman by stating her own achievements yet she was a woman. Although her fight is mostly for black women, she employs her audience to see women in general as equal to men.
Although there are differences in how these women approached social injustices among women, their course is almost similar. They both had a glimpse of what was going on in the society and did not like it. Although Stanton was from the elite group of the society, she had a taste of this kind of social injustice, for instance, by not attending the kind of college that suited her intellectual ability. Both their courses were successful in one way or the other, and both became part of the great female activists who ever lived. Although Truth did not publish any of her speeches, maybe due to her inability to communicate in English, scholars have picked and continued her work, thus making her course a success. Moreover, Most of Stanton’s speeches have been read throughout the world and have influenced many antifeminist movements.
In conclusion, although these social injustices are not as severe as they were at the time, human activists continue to fight for equality between men and women. The 21st-century activists borrow a lot of skills from these two theorists. Their works continue even though they are long gone. One can say that they set the pace for what the world is enjoying today, a world where everybody is somebody regardless of their color, gender, race, or disability.
Lewis, Jones. We Now Demand Our Right to Vote. Women’s History. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2014
Truth, Sojourner. Ain’t I a Woman? Women’s Conventions. (1851):28-29. Web. 19 Feb. 2014