Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. A room of one’s own. What is it that makes a woman feel complete, that her life is worthwhile? Is it a full belly, true friendship? Love? Hope? Maybe it’s freedom. Maybe respect. In 1851, freed slave and anti-slavery speaker Sojourner Truth said, “Look at me. Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me. . . And ain’t I a woman?”
Imagine having to justify your very existence as Truth was compelled to do. Imagine living a life devoid of respect, lacking in trust. Imagine fighting for the most basic of rights – the right to be black, to be a woman, to vote, to be free.
In comparison, my life is a ball. It’s a fairy tale, an amazing dream existence. I know it. Lately I’ve been thinking of buying an organic cranberry farm. I could work the fields, build wind turbines for power. I could make cranberry wine and chocolate covered cranberries. I could live by the shore in the beautiful sandy flatlands of southeastern Massachusetts. I could plow and plant, or hire someone to do it for me. I could gather my harvest, a bounty of ripe, crimson berries. Berries with roots that dig deep into the Native American soil. Berries that clung to the soul of this land for eons before those old Pilgrims ever stepped onto our windy beaches.
In pursuit of happiness, will I be happy? Would I be more content with a full belly, with a simple chicken in my pot instead of a cranberry bog? Would fraternité please me more than the lonely bogs under the stars at night? My cranberry bog might be my room, the one place where I feel free to write and create and be who I need to be. One thing I know – égalité is something I won’t give up on. Even now, even 160 years after Sojourner Truth cried out with such humility and common sense for justice, the world tries to hold women back. There are those who say we should be content with the privileges we have. There are many who rail against women who use their voices for change. There are some of both genders who show contempt for the female sex. Why? What’s wrong with being a woman? Ain’t I a woman? Are you saying there is something wrong with me?
So we know that Truth’s work is not done. Every woman has the right to find what makes her happy, where her freedoms lie, what constitutes her liberty. A reason for living, each one deciding for herself what that reason may be. A pot for every woman. And the cranberry bog of her choice in every pot.