Hand Quilt Along: That’s the Truth

Since we last gathered here to talk hand quilting, I finished only one block but it’s one of my favorite quotes in the quilt. There’s not much new to say about the quilting so I’ll tell you about Sojourner Truth.

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I’m not sure how familiar she is to Americans, let alone folks from other countries.

Sojourner Truth was an African-American slave. She was born into slavery, in 1797, in New York state and named Isabella Baumfree. When she was 29, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter. 

She was a force to be reckoned with.

Truth became active in both the abolitionist movement and the women’s suffrage movement and gave a notable speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. The speech, known as “Aint’ I A Woman?,” comes to us in different forms, written down, in some cases years later, by those who heard Truth speak. The most famous version is probably not particularly accurate, since it is written in southern dialect and Truth grew up in New York, speaking Dutch. 

Regardless, all agreed that the speech powerfully put forth an argument for the rights of black women; being both black and women, they were doubly limited in rights and often overlooked by the two movements.

The quote on my quilt seems to be from an interview with Truth, published in The Complete History of Women’s Suffrage – All 6 Volumes in One Edition, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Ida H. Harper and available on Google Books. 

I must sojourn once to the ballot-box before I die. I hear the ballot-box is a beautiful glass globe, so you can see all the votes as they go in. Now, the first time I vote I’ll see if the woman’s vote looks any different from the rest–if it makes any stir or commotion. If it don’t inside, it need not outside.

The words may make it seems that Truth had a naive, almost child-like, vision of a ballot box but nothing I’ve ever read about her suggests she was naive. Rather, I take her words to be canny and maybe a little sarcastic.

What’s important to me, since we can’t really know what she meant, is her use of the metaphor of the glass globe.

I think we lose track of what it means to have a vote, to have a personal say in the way our world operates. Never having been denied it, we don’t appreciate our good fortune.

The metaphor of the glass globe carries the reminder we need:

A glass globe is perfectly round, all parts being equal, with no part above the other.

A glass globe is precious, rare, difficult to achieve.

A glass globe is fragile and must be handled carefully and thoughtfully preserved.

A glass globe is transparent—there’s no hiding what goes on within.

This is what voting should be, in my world and yours. We need to do our part to preserve the glass globe and demand that our leaders do their part to preserve it.

Sojourner Truth did go to the ballot box once before she died.

In 1872, she attempted to register and vote in Michigan but was turned away.

Her life and her words, though, contributed to our never being turned away. Vote as if your right was a beautiful glass globe.

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This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

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67 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: That’s the Truth

  1. Thanks for this, and for the reminder that slavery was legal in the North for part of our history. In fact, many northern states allowed some slavery to continue in some form even after the practice was generally discontinued. I know that’s not really what the post was about but that was the first thing that struck me — a slave from New York. Yes indeed.

    • I learned about her when I studied Rhetoric and Public Address in grad school. We studied SO many speeches by men, hers was a tonic! And, yes, she chose a very good name.

  2. I have loved that speech for a long time and like when it was turned into a song. Thanks for giving people a little primer on her. I think her reference to the globe might be that it sometimes foretells the future. And certainly without women taking their votes seriously, it would be a different one. Here’s a link to Priscilla Herdman’s version of the song (from way back in the 80’s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY6K255YbYo

      • Just go into that place where you choose your language on the computer and choose the US. Then you can switch it back later. Annoying, but most the time that works. There are other versions of it, so you could google and maybe get one available to you, BTW, that fire isn’t on your island, is it? Yipes. First floods, then fires, I thought, but I can never remember north/south…

        • I got your gift thank you so much 🙂 I also just found her on Spotify, and thought I’d search You Tube this evening……. The fires are in the Nelson area which is the far north of the South Island – it’s the island where I live but at the other end. They seem a bit happier this morning about having it under control. Summer eas a long time coming this year, but it arrived with searing heat and often days of wind – both being the fire fighters nemesis!

    • That’s a fascinating extra insight about the globe metaphor! And I love that you and I seem to have the same taste in music–you wrote about Gordon Bok’s song last year and may be the only other person I know who knows Priscilla Herdman–I know and love her version of this speech.

  3. I love this quilt you are making! I love all the quotes you chose; I love the perfect script; I love the red and white; and I adore your hand quilting! Absolutely lovely! Happy February!

  4. A deep and moving post ~ while familiar with Sojourner Truth I learned quite a lot that I did not know. Your quilt block is pristine perfect ~ I can hardly wait to see the block you’re doing for next months posting ~ Sharon

  5. Another great quote, and wonderful history lesson too, plus beautiful quilting, you know how to pack a post with goodies, Kerry! I hope we can see another photo of the quilt soon, hint, hint! The read and white is so striking. XX

  6. I think you have mentioned her before, probably in connection with this project. But a familiarity with the name is all I had until now. I’d love to hear the story of how she found her name – there’s a lot of thought gone into that! I wonder if her metaphor of the glass globe is more than a metaphor too – I believe that prior to the advent of the cardboard vote boxes we have now they were made of glass. Maybe they were round. If so, her comment about how the votes appear through the glass is astute. Beautiful work Kerry!!

    • According to good ol’ Wikipedia, “1843 was a turning point for Truth. She became a Methodist, and on June 1, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She told friends: ‘The Spirit calls me, and I must go’ and left to make her way traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery.” I like to think about what name I’d choose for myself . . .

  7. Oh wow, Kerry, what an amazing collection of incredible women you are honouring with your quilt. I’m so pleased to have learned from you about Sojourner and her history. You have inspired me to seek out more about her, thank you!

  8. It’s an important message, emphasised by immaculate quilting. What saddens me so deeply about this is that there are still women unable to vote, even those legally entitled to do so but unable to access their rights through the actions of ‘guardians’, the non-co-operation of husbands or the sheer distance they need to travel in order to exercise their right to have a say in how their country is led and run.

  9. Beautiful piecing, hand quilting, and embroidery, beautifully written metaphor, and inspired by your post to read more about Sojourner Truth and the history of the methods of voting too! Very different before the adoption of the secret ballot.

    • The secret ballot changes everything. Even when I was going to faculty meetings and we had to vote–when I started teaching, we just raised our hands and people were intimidated by what others might think. then we went to secret ballot and we all felt more comfortable! Thanks for your kinds words!

  10. A lightbulb moment for me yesterday: I happened to see something about a woman named “Sylvia Pankhurst.” She was a British woman, 1882-1960, who I looked up because of portraits of working women and children she painted in the early 1900s, including in textile mills. I’d link for you but don’t want to trigger the spam filter. She was a suffragette and activist as well as talented artist. The lightbulb turned on as I realized there were women fighting for equal rights in the 1960s and 1970s who HAD BEEN FIGHTING for equal rights for the whole century already. For some reason that connection never occurred to me before. And still we struggle for equal rights for those outside of the power structure.

  11. What a wise post you’ve written. And a beautiful, meaningful tribute to a wise and courageous woman. So many people had to fight fierce battles to win privileges and rights that we enjoy today. Maybe when one has enjoyed a right long enough, one needs to be reminded that it’s a privilege.

  12. I love the hand-quilt-along concept, and I love hearing details of the lives you have chosen to honor in your own quilt. I wish she had actually been able to vote, but she did help smooth the way for others.

    • Even without the chance to vote, she probably had a bigger impact on history than any one of us does, who simply vote. But, then, maybe most of us don’t just simply vote.

  13. What a thought provoking post! I feel that we so often take for granted what others fought so hard to achieve in terms of winning the right for women to vote. And yet there is still much fighting to be done, as world wide there is still so much inequality between men and women. I was only hearing today on the radio that there are still 15 countries where stoning of women still takes place. When I grew up feminism and equality were high on my agenda, as was the sisterhood. Sadly, I think we still have a long way to go.
    I love your quilted square. Your quilt stitches are perfect as is your embroidery. I know you think that I too am a perfectionist, but I recognise a master stitcher when I see one. I can’t hand quilt for toffee! Stitches all irregular and all over the place.

  14. Kerry, thank you for writing about Sojourner Truth. I knew the name but not the story behind it. Such remarkable women came before us to ensure our right to vote. I’m with you: it seems unthinkable to ever squander that vote. Your hand stitching has a calming effect. It’s lovely.

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