Alice Paul

- 1871-1950

I watched a river of women,
Rippling purple, white and golden,
Stream toward the National Capitol.

Along its border,
Like a purple flower floating,
Moved a young woman, worn, wraithlike.
All eyes alight, keenly observing the marchers.
Out there on the curb, she looked so little, so lonely,
Few appeared even to see her;
No one saluted her.

Yet commander was she of the column, its leader;
She was the spring whence arose that irresistible river of women
Streaming steadily towards the National Capitol.

More by Katharine Rolston Fisher

The Empty Cup

Evening at Occoquan. Rain pelts the workhouse roof.
The prison matrons are sewing together for the Red Cross
The women prisoners are going to bed in two long rows.
Some of the suffrage pickets lie reading in the dim light.
Through the dark, above the rain, rings out a cry.
We listen at the windows. (Oh, those cries from punishment cells!)
A voice calls one of us by name.
“Miss Burns! Miss Burns! Will you see that I have a drink of water?”
Lucy Burns arises; slips on the course blue prison gown.
Over it her swinging hair, red-gold, throws a regal mantle.
She begs the night-watch to give the girl water.
One of the matrons leaves her war-bandages; we see her hasten to the cell.
The light in it goes out.
The voice despairing cries:
“She has taken away the cup and she will not bring me water.”
Rain pours on the roof. The suffragists lie awake.
The matrons work busily for the Red Cross. 

Susan B. Anthony

Her life is a luminous banner borne ever ahead of her era, in
      lead of the forces of freedom,
            Where wrongs for justice call.
High-hearted, far-sighted, she pressed with noble intrepid impatience,
      one race and the half of another
            To liberate from thrall.

If now in its freedom her spirit mingle with ours and find us
      toiling at dusk to finish
            The task of her long day,
On ground hard held to the last, gaining her goal for women,
      if for her word we hearken,
            May we not hear her say:

“Comrades and daughters exultant, let my goal for you be a mile-
      stone. Too late have you won it to linger.
            Victory flies ahead.
Though women march millions abreast on a widening way to free-
      dom, trails there are still for women
            Fearless to break and tread.

“Keep watch on power as it passes, on liberty’s torch as it
      travels, lest woman be left with a symbol,
            No flame in her lamp alive.
In the mine, the mill and the mart where is bartered the bread of
      your children, is forged the power you strove for,
            For which you still must strive.”

Her spirit like southern starlight at once is afar and around us;
      her message an inward singing
            Through all our life to run:
“Forward together, my daughters, till born of your faith with
      each other and of brotherhood all the world over,
            For all is freedom won.”

Thoughts in Jail

Prisoners are we,
American citizens imprisoned
For daring in the name of Democracy
To protest against the continued denial
Of the right of self-government
To twenty millions of the American people.

We lie in a dungeon
Long ago abandoned and condemned,
Just as politically we are held
Imprisoned in a subjection
Abandoned and condemned
By every other nation of English speech and spirit.

Painfully raising my head,
I look down the long row
Of gray-blanketed heaps.
Under every heap a woman,
Weak, sick, but determined,
Twenty gray fortresses of determination.

Related Poems

The Women's Litany

Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!
Lips set smiling and face made fair
Still for you through the pain we bare,
We have hid till our hearts were sore
Blacker things than you ever bore:
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!
Light held high in a strife ne’er through
We have fought for our sons and you,
We have conquered a million years’
Pain and evil and doubt and tears—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!
We have held you within our hand,
Marred or made as we broke or planned,
We have given you life or killed
King or brute as we taught or willed—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world’s sake!
We are blind who must guide your eyes,
We are weak who must help you rise,
All untaught who must teach and mold
Souls of men till the world is old—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world’s sake!

Song for Equal Suffrage

Day of hope and day of glory! After slavery and woe,
Comes the dawn of woman's freedom, and the light shall grow and grow
Until every man and woman equal liberty shall know,
        In Freedom marching on!

Woman's right is woman's duty! For our share in life we call!
Our will it is not weakened and our power it is not small.
We are half of every nation! We are mothers of them all!
        In Wisdom marching on!

Not for self but larger service has our cry for freedom grown,
There is crime, disease and warfare in a world of men alone,
In the name of love we're rising now to serve and save our own,
        As Peace comes marching on!

By every sweet and tender tie around our heartstrings curled,
In the cause of nobler motherhood is woman's flag unfurled,
Till every child shall know the joy and peace of mother's world–
        As Love comes marching on!

We will help to make a pruning hook of every outgrown sword,
We will help to knit the nations in continuing accord,
In humanity made perfect is the glory of the Lord,
        As His world goes marching on!

“We As Women”

There‘s a cry in the air about us–
We hear it, before, behind–
Of the way in which “We, as women,”
Are going to lift mankind!

With our white frocks starched and ruffled,
And our soft hair brushed and curled–
Hats off! for “We, as women,”
Are coming to save the world.

Fair sisters! listen one moment–
And perhaps you‘ll pause for ten:
The business of women as women
Is only with men as men!

What we do, “We, as women,”
We have done all through our life;
The work that is ours as women
Is the work of mother and wife.

But to elevate public opinion,
And to lift up erring man,
Is the work of the Human Being;
Let us do it–if we can.

But wait, warm-hearted sisters–
Not quite so fast, so far.
Tell me how we are going to lift a thing
Any higher than we are!

We are going to “purify politics,”
And to “elevate the press.”
We enter the foul paths of the world
To sweeten and cleanse and bless.

To hear the high things we are going to do,
And the horrors of man we tell,
One would think, “We, as women,” were angels,
And our brothers were fiends of hell.

We, that were born of one mother,
And reared in the self-same place,
In the school and the church together,
We of one blood, one race!

Now then, all forward together!
But remember, every one,
That ‘tis not by feminine innocence
The work of the world is done.

The world needs strength and courage,
And wisdom to help and feed–
When, “We, as women” bring these to man,
We shall lift the world indeed.