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.
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.
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.