The Empty Cup

- 1871-1950

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. 

Alice Paul

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.

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.