Women

Alice Walker



They were women then
My mama’s generation
Husky of voice—stout of
Step
With fists as well as
Hands
How they battered down
Doors
And ironed
Starched white
Shirts
How they led
Armies
Headragged generals
Across mined
Fields
Booby-trapped
Ditches
To discover books
Desks
A place for us
How they knew what we
Must know
Without knowing a page
Of it
Themselves.


Understanding the poem

1. From a historical perspective, whom specifically does the poem honor?

2. Alice Walker mentions both their fists and their hands. What difference is suggested by these words? What are the different actions that each performs in the poem?

3. Alice Walker uses an implied metaphor to compare two kinds of actions or struggles. What does she compare the women’s struggle to? 

4. Again, thinking about American history, what do you think the mined fields and booby-trapped ditches are metaphors for? 

5. What did these women “discover”? For whom has their struggle been waged?

6. What do you think these women knew their children had to know?