Saturday, November 14, 2009

how soujourner truth became free

A pretty ferocious woman, all 5'11" of her. She was born as Isabella Baumfree in late 1790's in Swartekill, New York on Round Out Creek near where it joins the Wallkill River in Ultster County. A stone's throw from Rhinebeck.

Soujourner Truth ... She was a famous American abolitionist and a champion of women's rights. Her most famous speech is Ain't I a Woman? Here is her fibre story and how she freed herself as an indentured slave. Ulster County was known as a wool producing region, but this reputation rested more on the mediocrity of it's wheat than the wonderfulness of its wool. Her task to freedom was to spin 100 lbs of wool for her owner, Mr. Dumont, in order to become free. She was an excellent spinner and this task only took her 4 to 6 months. Her work as a slave came to an end in November or December of 1826.

I have been thinking about how this relates to me, with my nice basement spinning room, my new spinning chair, my fibre club subscriptions and my high tech wheel. She was an early femnist wanting to free herself from the chores of spinning and lower level of mindless work that spinning represented. Now, almost 200 years later, I am using the same activity that she wanted to get free from, to relax at the end of a hectic day. I now feel the pressure to spin my fleece, which lays in three bags in my basement but life has got in the way. I have too many emails to answer, too many knitting blogs to peruse every day, too much driving around Toronto to do my job in 12 different libraries, too many loads of laundry and too many other distractions. My husband says she wouldn't let watching tv shows like MadMen or Six Feet Under re-runs stand in her way. I think of Soujourner focusing on her spinning after a full day of her slavery chores and I feel not worthy, diminished in a way. But I am also inspired. If she can do it, so can I.

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