On Being Authentic: Sojourner Truth & Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor Monarchs, daughter to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born September 7, 1533 in Greenwich, England. Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree,  a slave in Hurley, New York. While her exact date of birth is unknown, it's believed to have been around 1797.

One was an African-American women's rights activist and abolitionist, the other English, well-educated... the last Tudor Monarch. Born over 260 years apart on opposite sides of the world, both were courageous and determined. Queen Elizabeth I claimed the throne at 25 and held it until her death 44 years later. For a time in her youth, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Sojourner Truth was one of the few African American women to participate in both the abolition of slavery and women's rights movement. She was also the first African-American to win a lawsuit in the U.S.

Authenticity. What does it even mean to be authentic... to be true to yourself... to be you? 

The courage to be yourself means speaking from the heart and sharing weaknesses, feelings and failures. It's the degree to which a person's actions are congruent with their beliefs and desires, despite external pressures to conformity.

In her speech to the troops at Tilbury (August 9, 1588) Queen Elizabeth I says, "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."

Being authentic means being vulnerable, honest, transparent and that we should strive to lead our lives according to our own reasons and motives.

An article by Inc. Magazine on the topic of showing authenticity states, "Take the focus away from more money, more power, and inflating your ego and instead turn your focus to finding your true self [...] and pursuing your dreams in a selfless and ethical, truly authentic way."

I find myself looking within, and at times wondering whether the pros outweigh the cons. At 38 I'm learning to be more open. For instance, I'm promoting female empowerment through the handcrafted jewelry, and for the past few years haven't been able to do the single thing that adults "should"... and that's provide for oneself. Instead I'm grateful for pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA), crowdfunding the jewelry without much success, while working towards long term goals.  One of my biggest fears is singing this same song a year from now.

Returning to Sojourner Truth and the topic of being honest, vulnerable, and transparent. In her "Ain't I A Woman?" speech delivered at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Georgia (1851), she shares: 

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Opening up to others is the way to be authentic and establish genuine lines of communication. Sojourner Truth, first sold at nine years old for $100 and a flock of sheep, escaped to freedom with her daughter in 1826. She's quoted to have said, "I did not run away, I walked away by daylight." While she faught for women's right, she didn't live to see the equal rights amendment pass in 1920. Queen Elizabeth I is remembered for establishing Protestantism in England, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and creating an environment where the arts flourished... lending her name to the Elizabethan Era.

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  • Andrea Bunch

    Thank you for this inspiring post! I had not read all of the ‘I am a woman’ passage you quoted. Thank you for sharing her words.

  • William "Bill" Nix

    Excellent history and the difference in motivation and perspective. One against all odds. The other “because I can” with the position given to her. Keep thriving towards the authntic prize!!

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