May 28, 2023

Alice Paul

If you want to make enemies try to change something. —Woodrow Wilson

Because other suffragists
were too tame
she broke away
and started the National Women’s Party.
Her bedroom was in its headquarters:
her only life and home.
Her only friends
were sister militants.
She’d push herself again and again
until collapse and hospital stays.

She lost all sense of smell after
too many tubes thrust up her nose
as they force-fed her in prison.
Men hardly stood by pleasantly
when she marched for the cause.
She and her cohort
were spat upon and smacked,
beaten to the ground;
as if her foes didn’t see
Paul weighed barely ninety pounds.

She stenciled Woodrow Wilson’s
own words about freedom onto a banner
and went to jail for that, too.
As soon as women won the right to vote
she drafted the first text
of the Equal Rights Amendment.
She lived long enough to see
Congress vote to approve
and died believing
it would soon be the law of the land.