The leaders of the movement trembled upon seeing a tall,
gaunt black woman in a gray dress and white turban, surmounted with an uncouth sunbonnet, march deliberately into the church, walk with the air of a queen up the aisle, and take her seat upon the pulpit steps.
A buzz of
disapprobation was heard all over the house, and there fell on the listening ear, "An abolition affair!" "Woman's rights and niggers!" "I told you so!" "Go it, darkey!"
Again and again,
timorous and trembling ones came to me and said, with earnestness, "Don't let her speak, Mrs. Gage, it will ruin us. Every newspaper in the land will have our cause mixed up with abolition and niggers and we shall be utterly denounced."
There were very few women in those days who dared to "speak in meeting" and the august teachers of the people were seemingly getting the best of us, while the boys in the galleries, and the sneerers among the pews, were hugely enjoying the
discomfiture, as they supposed of the "strong-minded"
She moved slowly and
solemnly to the front, laid her old bonnet at her feet, and turned her great speaking eyes to me.
tumult subsided at once, and every eye was fixed on this almost Amazon form, which stood nearly six feet high, head erect, and eyes piercing the upper air like one in a dream.
At her first word there was a
She spoke in deep tones, which, though not loud, reached every ear in the house, and away through the
throng at the doors and windows.
Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin' out o'
kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de nigger of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin' 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
What's dat got to do wid womin's rights or nigger's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?" And she pointed her significant finger, and sent a
keen glance at the minister who had made the argument.
Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, "Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin' to do wid Him." Oh, what a
rebuke that was to the little man.
Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother Eve, I cannot follow her through it all. It was pointed and witty, and solemn;
eliciting at almost every sentence deafening applause
...and she ended by
asserting, "If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder [and she glanced her eye over the platform] ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!
"Bleeged to ye for hearin' on me, and now ole Sojourner han't got nothin' more to say."
Amid roars of applause, she returned to her corner, leaving more than one of us with streaming eyes, and hearts beating with
She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried us safely over the
slough of difficulty, turning the whole tide in our favor.
I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that
subdued the mobbish spirit of the day.
...and turned the
sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration.
Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the
glorious old mother
...and bid her God-speed on her mission of "testifyin' agin concerning the wickedness of this 'ere people."