Kendra Bonnett

Celebrating Sojourner Truth: A Can Do Woman

No comments

“Ain’t I a Woman?” These are the most repeated and iconic words that Sojourner Truth, maybe, didn’t speak.

It’s May 29, 2021, and on this day, 170 years ago, Truth spoke before the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

Here’s the famous portion of the speech that reformer Frances Dana Barker Gage published 12 years after Truth’s speech:

“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?”

But here’s the thing, several newspaper reporters at the time made no mention of “Ain’t I a Woman?” It took a social reformer telling the story 12 years later to interject the compelling phrase. And if you still have doubts, because Truth as raised on an upstate New York estate, speaking only Dutch during her formative years, she didn’t have the stereotypical speech patterns of Southern blacks. The catchy “Ain’t I a Women?” phrase was made up to make a point.

Sojourner Truth Told What She Knew

But that’s not the end of Sojourner Truth story. Actually, it’s barely the tip of the iceberg. For she is a true Can Do Woman. Let me explain:

Around 1797, she was born Isabella Baumfree–a slave–on the Dutch Ulster County estate of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh in upstate New York. She spoke only Dutch until she was nine years old. And although she never learned to read or write, she understood the importance of freedom and equal rights for both blacks and women. She not only appreciated the power of speaking out and fighting for what she believed, she was also very good at both.

In 1827, although she had been promised her freedom and New York had passed an anti-slavery law, her master denied her rights. Baumfree’s response was to walk off the estate with her youngest daughter. But that was not the end of it. She had other children, one of which had been illegally sold to a plantation owner in Alabama. She raised money. Met with lawyers. Made her case in the New York courts. And she won custody of five-year-old Peter. Isabella Baumfree was the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

But Baumfree was only getting started. Caught up in a religious revival, she experienced conversion and became an itinerant Methodist preacher, changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and started speaking out. Throughout the 1850s, some crowds who didn’t like her message of freedom and equality for blacks and women often threatened her; still she was getting heard.

During the Civil War she recruited black troops for the Union Army and worked to ensure they had necessary supplies. Her efforts came to the attention of many important people and organizations.

She met with President Abraham Lincoln. And after the war, she worked for the National Freedman’s Relief Association to help improve the conditions of blacks. She even met with President Ulysses S. Grant. What’s more, she tried to vote for the re-election of Grant, but was turned away at the polls.

For the rest of her life, Sojourner Truth continued to speak to street crowds, at suffrage meetings, and anywhere and to anyone that would listen. As age caught up with Truth, her daughter cared for her at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. She died on November 28, 1883 at the age of 86.

Remembering Truth Today

Although Sojourner Truth could neither read or write, her impact has been for the ages. She dictated her story to white feminist Olive Gilbert–entitled Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Northern Slave. William Lloyd Garrison published it in 1850.

In addition to having numerous libraries, schools and buildings named in her honor:

  • Today, historical markers and statues acknowledge her work in Michigan, Ohio, New York, California and Massachusetts.
  • In 1981, inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1981.
  • In 1983, inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • The US Post office issued a commemorative stamp in 1986
  • In 1987, the State Bar of Michigan included her in a statute called “Michigan Legal Milestones.”
  • She is among the Calendar of Saints of both the Episcopal and Lutheran churches.
  • In 1997, the NASA named the Mars Pathfinder rover “Sojourner.”
  • In 2002, Temple University declared her among the 100 Greatest African Americans.
  • Similarly, in 2014, the Smithsonian included Truth among the 100 Most Significant Americans.
  • Also in 2014, asteroid 249521 named “Truth.”
  • Honored with a Google Doodle in 2019.

In answer to Sojourner Truth’s apocryphal question in 1851, Yes, she was a woman…and so much more. She was a Can Do Woman.

RosieCentral’s Can Do Women

A Can Do Woman is every woman who doesn’t let circumstances of background, color, ethnicity, money, or gender stand in her way. Rich or poor; black, white or brown; she pursues her passion–whether it is riding a motorcycle across country when such a thing is unheard of, piloting a plane (even if she has to travel to France to learn) or summoning the strength of purpose to stand side-by-side with her white sisters to fight for freedom and equality. Any woman with a dream, who allows nothing to stand in the way, is a Can Do Woman. What’s your passion? Who is your role model?

We only just began our series of Can Do Women a few months ago. As yet, we haven’t created a Sojourner Truth historical figure doll, although you can know that it’s coming. In the meantime, however, we have honored several Black We Can Do It Women, some of whom Truth even helped inspire. You can see them at our Etsy store. Among them are:

  • Nannie Helen Burroughs (black suffragist)
  • Bessie Stringfield (rode motorcycles cross country multiple times in the 1930s and 40s)
  • Coming soon: Bessie Coleman (first black pilot)*
  • Coming soon: Mae Jemison (first black woman in space)*
  • Kamala Harris (first female Vice President)
  • Coming soon: Amanda Gorman (America’s first youth poet laureate)*

* Completed just not yet listed.

Kendra BonnettCelebrating Sojourner Truth: A Can Do Woman

Who is Bessie Stringfield? And Why Do We Care?

1 comment

Bessie StringfieldImagine riding a motorcycle across country. Then imagine riding the rough, often unpaved roads of the 1930s (before there was a highway system) sitting on a motorcycle with little suspension save the seat springs. Now imagine that, like Bessie Stringfield, you’re a woman riding alone, you’re black at the height of the Jim Crow laws and you stand just five feet tall and weigh 100 pounds.

There are enough obstacles in that scenario to discourage most women. But not Bessie. She had a passion, and she was willing to pursue it at all costs.

Bessie Stringfield had the Can-Do spirit. She had a passion to ride, and let nothing stop her And it’s why she matters. The dictionary describes Can-Do as “characterized by eager willingness to accept and meet challenges.” Let Bessie be a lesson…a reminder to you. If you have a passion, don’t let idle talk discourage you. Don’t let family and friends convince you otherwise. And don’t ask permission. PURSUE YOUR PASSION, and live your life to the fullest. Bessie did.

A Brief History

Bessie’s early years are a little fuzzy, in part because she changed her story often. She was born in 1911 or 1912, possibly in Kingston, Jamaica, but maybe in Edenton, North Carolina. We do know, however, that she moved with her parents to Boston only to be orphaned at five. Bessie’s good fortune was to be adopted and raised by an Irish woman who clearly understood and encouraged her.

Motorcycles became popular in post-World War I America. As young men raced about on their motorcycles, little Bessie watched and dreamed of having a bike of her own. “When can I have my own motorcycle?” she asked.

The answer came on her 16th birthday when her mother gave her the keys to a new 1928 Indian Scout.

Although Bessie had never been on a motorcycle, let along operate one, through perseverance she taught herself to ride. And as her dream turned to reality it ignited her passion.

Penny Rides

Three years later, Bessie was ready for adventure. At 19 she began crisscrossing the country on her motorcycle. Where she went she left to fate and a penny she’d flip on a map. It wasn’t easy. She paid for trips by performing motorcycle stunts at shows and carnivals. Although she also raced motorcycles, she was denied the prize money because she was a woman.

Sometimes she was harassed by police just for riding through town, being told that she wasn’t allowed to ride a motorcycle because she was black. And because it was the 1930s, she was often denied accommodations at motor lodges and inns. Unless she was lucky enough to be taken in by a black family, she often had to sleep on her bike in parking lots outside of gas stations with her leather jacket across the handlebars for a pillow.

But even these hardships could not stop her. That’s what true passion is all about. Meeting and overcoming obstacles makes the dream all the sweeter.

Bessie made a name for herself as the first African-American woman to ride a motorcycle coast to coast. And during WWII, she served as a civilian courier for the Army, carrying official documents and secret dispatches between bases. Her work took her across country eight more times. She was literally a Rosie the Riveter on Wheels. The CD shield on the fender of her Harley-Davidson identified her as a courier and gave her entre to military bases.

Motorcycle Queen of Miami

After the war, Bessie Stringfield moved to Miami, Florida, where she continued to ride. She founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club and heralded as the Motorcycle Queen of Miami. Bessie lived until 1993, continuing to ride until the end. Her passion for motorcycles was such that she owned 27 Harley-Davidson bikes throughout her lifetime.

But the legacy of Bessie Stringfield lives on. This diminutive black woman with a passion to ride broke barriers for other black women. In 2000, the American Motorcycle Association recognized her achievements and created in her honor the Bessie Stringfield Memorial Award to recognize outstanding achievements of other women, especially female motorcyclists.

In 2002, the AMA inducted Bessie into its Hall of Fame. And the recognition continues each year with the Bessie Stringfield ALL FEMALE RIDE.

In honor of Bessie’s adopted state of Florida, here’s a recipe for stir fry stone crab legs in curry ginger sauce.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Florida Stone Crab Legs with Curry and Ginger Sauce

Fast and easy, wok-cooked stone crab legs are flavorful and aromatic
Servings: 4 people
Author: Kendra Bonnett

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp rice bran oil You can use olive oil, but I prefer rice bran for the high heat tolerance
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 slices ginger, fresh and peeled
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp straight sherry
  • cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 16 stone crab legs Shells should be cracked but not picked

Instructions

  • Heat wok over high heat.
  • Add rice bran oil and when hot, add garlic, scallions, bell pepper and ginger. Stir fry for about half a minute.
  • Add crab legs and continue stir frying for a full minute.
  • In a bowl, combine curry power, sale, sugar and sherry.
  • In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water into a paste.
  • Pour the curry mixture over the crab meat and continue stir frying for another half minute.
  • Add chicken broth and cook for roughly 5 minutes.
  • Add the cornstarch paste to the stir fry as a thickener.
  • Serve immediately.

Bessie Stringfield and Pursue Your PassionInspiration to Pursue Your Passion

This May is National Motorcycle Awareness Month–the perfect time to honor Bessie Stringfield. But her story is so much bigger than the motorcycles she rode.

It’s a universal message to all of us to find our passion. And once found, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, go for it.

And I stress this. Don’t simply follow your passion. Be more proactive. Pursue your passion. Your life (and often the lives of others) will be fuller for your commitment.

We created the Bessie Stringfield Inspirational Touchstone Keychain as a reminder to Pursue Your Passion.

Kendra BonnettWho is Bessie Stringfield? And Why Do We Care?

A Mother’s Day Remembrance and a Can Do Memory

1 comment

Mother’s Day is a week away, and this is a particularly bittersweet one for me. Mother’s Day 20 years ago was the last time we celebrated as a family because on the following Monday my mother went into the hospital for the last time and passed away on June 1. So it seems fitting that I share an early memory I have that ties directly into our message of Can Do.

Each night, while tucking me in, she’d kiss me and we’d share a little word of endearment or encouragement. One night, as she was walking away from my bedside, I shouted out, “Fight fire with fire.”

Who knows where I picked that one up. I was just eight. But it was definitely the wrong thing to say. A throwaway line to me was anything but to my mother. She came back over and sat on the edge of my bed. She tried to explain to an eight year old why such an aggressive, vindictive attitude was wrong. I don’t really remember all her words. What is etched into my mind, however, is what she said next. “It’s better to focus on your own growth,” she said. “You need to remind yourself of the chances and opportunities available to you and you need to fight for what you want. There’s no upside in focusing on getting even.”

That night she passed along a phrase that her mother had shared with her many years ago: “I can and I will.” Every night since when we’d say good night, we’d share our special message and remind ourselves, “I can and I will.”

In all the 20 years since you’ve been gone, Moo, I’ve never forgotten. Thank you.

Can Do Colcannon for Mother’s Day

Let me share my mother’s favorite recipe for colcannon. It’s a traditional Irish dish of cabbage and mashed potatoes that’s delicious. Best of all, anyone can do this one.

 

Rosie's Can Do Colcannon

Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • cups water
  • ¾ pounds cabbage, cored and shredded
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pounds boiling potatoes, scrubbed
  • cups milk, scalded
  • 1 tbsp onion, minced
  • cayenne pepper, salt and ground pepper to taste
  • scallons, chopped as a topping

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, combine the water, shredded cabbage and salt. To cook the cabbage, bring to a boil over high-to-moderate heat. Continue cooking and stirring regularly until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and cover pan loosely.
  • In a large pot, combine the potatoes with enough water to cover potatoes by two inches. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  • Drain potatoes in colander and shake dry.
  • Once cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, then puree while still warm. Beat in scaled milk, cooked/shredded cabbage and onion. Season with salt and peppers to taste.
  • Before serving, return mixture to low heat. Stir. Add more milk, if necessary, to achieve the desired consistency. Heat until hot. Transfer to a warm serving dish. Make a depression in the center and add 1/2 a stick of softened butter. Let begin to melt and serve hot. And sprinkle scallons on top.

It’s a Rosebud for Can-Do Girls

In honor of the special relationships between mothers and daughters, RosieCentral created a “we gift”–something for both mother and daughter. It’s a Rosebud is our Rosie the Riveter baby set–with burp cloths, booties, gift card and Rosie Ornament is available on Etsy.  Both the booties and burp cloths are made, in part, with our original legacy bandana fabric. It’s  never too early to share an important lesson with your daughter.

What does “Can Do” mean to you?

Kendra BonnettA Mother’s Day Remembrance and a Can Do Memory

Nannie Helen Burroughs: Inspirational Women Who Wouldn’t Take “No” As An Answer

1 comment

It’s early on March 1, 2021—on the cusp of the transition from Black History Month and on to Women’s History Month. And we have the perfect We Can Do It Woman to introduce. Nannie Helen Burroughs.

And here’s why.

Burroughs was born May 2, 1879. Although she was the daughter of former slaves, she graduated high school with honors and went on to become a businesswoman, bookkeeper, secretary, civil rights activist and suffragist. But more than anything, she was a dedicated educator. “Education and justice,” she explained, “are democracy’s only life insurance.”

Burroughs’ legacy of determination is an important takeaway for us. Never one to let a few closed doors stand in her way, she worked to turn No into Yes. For example, as The Washington Post recently explained, after graduating, she hoped to teach domestic science. But the Columbia Public Schoo refused to hire her–not because she was African-American, but because she was “too Black.”

Undaunted, Burroughs worked to raise the money to start her own school. She realized her dream for improving opportunities for Black women in 1908 when she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC. Here she taught for the rest of her life—until May 20, 1961.

Nannie Helen Burroughs bridged generations. Booker T. Washington was an inspiration early in her life, and later in life she befriended a young Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a suffragist, Burroughs worked for women’s rights. Although the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, she did not live to see the passage of either the Civil Rights Act (1964) or the Voting Right Act (1965), which helped to overcome the state and local barriers to equality.

Burroughs fought as a Black and a woman. But most of all she wanted individuals to have self-respect and purpose. “Having standards isn’t really for anyone else,” she wrote. “You should want to have them for yourself.”

The Literary Ladies Guide named Nannie Helen Burroughs one of “12 African-American Suffragists Who Shouldn’t be Overlooked.” We agree, and when we introduced our We Can Do It! Doll ornaments for Christmas 2020 in honor of the 19thAmendment Centennial, Nannie was one of our popular figures. Her life and her Can Do spirit are an inspiration for women of all ages.

Available on Etsy

Available on Etsy

 

Kendra BonnettNannie Helen Burroughs: Inspirational Women Who Wouldn’t Take “No” As An Answer

Happy Birthday, Susan | A Strong American Woman: Suffragist Susan B. Anthony!

No comments

The suffragist Susan B. Anthony would be 201 today.

 

Feb 15, 1820 to March 13, 1906, Adams, Massachusetts

Susan B Anthony ArrestedAlthough suffragist Susan B. Anthony didn’t live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, she a leading force in the fight for women’s voting rights. From a family of ardent social reformers who worked on anti-slavery and the temperance movements, she dedicated her life to women’s suffrage.While their efforts on behalf of women’s voting rights were largely peaceful, Susan B. Anthony was not above actively forcing the issue. In spite of not yet having won the right to vote, in 1872, Anthony and 14 other Rochester (NY) women voted in the presidential election.

Suffragist Susan B. Anthony Arrested!

Susan B. Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872. Her trial for violating the state laws of New York, which only allowed men to vote, began in June of the following year in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District—Justice Ward Hunt presiding.

At her trial, Anthony gave an impassioned speech (ignoring Justice Hunt when he told her to stop talking). She said, “You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”

Although Anthony was found guilty and fined $100, she refused to pay what she called “your unjust penalty.” And even though she never paid the fine, the court neglected to jail her. To do so would have given her the right to escalate the case to the Supreme Court. (And we certainly couldn’t have that!)

In 1878, Stanton and Anthony officially presented Congress with an amendment calling to give women the right to vote. At the time, it was known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Ultimately, at the time of its passage, it became the 19thAmendment to the Constitution.

Although she did not live long enough to see the Amendment passed, on its 100th anniversary in 2020, President Trump used the occasion to pardon Anthony for voting back in 1872.

Celebrating We Can Do It! Women

Nannie Helen Burroughs

In honor of women, we created our We Can Do It! figures. Every ornament, keychain, sachet, t-shirt begins with a careful eye for research. Then we commission original designs and hand craft the figures…with just a little help from Kendra’s sewing machine. Our We Can Do It! Women are inspirational to everyone who strives to achieve. They’re a great teaching tool too. A booklet about the life and accomplishments of our We Can Do It! woman is included with every item.

Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony!

We Can Do It Women

Kendra BonnettHappy Birthday, Susan | A Strong American Woman: Suffragist Susan B. Anthony!

Stand with Women

No comments

Rosie the Riveter is a strong female icon. We’ve created socks, pins and t-shirts to help you show your affinity.

Kendra BonnettStand with Women

Buy Bulk Wholesale

No comments

Need Rosie gear for groups or events? Buy bulk and save. We offer many of our most popular items with big bulk savings.

Kendra BonnettBuy Bulk Wholesale

Women’s Memoir Writing

No comments

Memoir Writing video lessons, books, and inspiration…and it all started with our book Rosie’s Daughters.

Kendra BonnettWomen’s Memoir Writing

RosieCentral

No comments

We’re taking our Rosie gear to Amazon. If you love buying through Amazon, this is your link. And you can expect free shipping.

Kendra BonnettRosieCentral

RosieGram

No comments

Rosie the Riveter is an icon for her times, and worth remembering today. During WWII Rosie took charge at home and on the job. RosieGram is a gift line for strong women in your life.

Kendra BonnettRosieGram