Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 on the Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh estate in Ulster County, New York. Truth was one of 13 children born to her parents, Elizabeth and James Baumfree, also slaves on the Hardenbergh estate. Until the age of 9 when Truth was sold away from her family, she only spoke Dutch, as the city in which she was born was a Dutch settlement. Truth retained her Dutch accent throughout her lifetime, even after learning English.
Truth had four children with an older slave named Thomas who also lived on the plantation of John Dumont, to whom her previous master sold her in 1810. Her children were Peter, born in 1822; James, who was born shortly thereafter and died young; Elizabeth, born in 1825; and Sophia, born in 1826. Truth previously had given birth to a daughter named Diana around 1816 after a short-lived relationship with another slave.
In the 1870s, Truth began experiencing ulcers in her legs that inhibited her ability to travel the country and speak as she had for years after gaining her freedom. Still, Truth managed to travel Michigan delivering speeches in favor of temperance and against capital punishment. She sought treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium operated by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in July 1883, but her health continued to decline until her death just months later.