“Women” by celebrated author Alice Walker takes a close look at the sacrifices African American women, especially of her mother’s generation, took in order to make sure that their children had better educations and futures than they did. In particular, Walker has said that she wrote this particular piece for her mother, who was a maid and the wife of an unsuccessful sharecropper. Nevertheless, her mother was determined that Alice and her siblings would receive an education so that they could have better opportunities available to them in life. The poem analyzes the themes of the strength of women in the face of adversity and danger, the sacrifices women make, and the hopes of mothers for their children. It also continues Walker’s tradition of focusing on the concept of “womanism”, where women of color are viewed as people to be celebrated, loved, admired, and emulated.
The poem is a single stanza, and makes use of lines that are no more than four words long, with some lines as few as one. The narrator describes women of her “mama’s generation”, women who were fierce inside and out. They were women to be feared for their strength, as they did their chores and did their best to ensure that their children were educated. The narrator ends the poem with a tone of admiration that while these women were not always educated themselves, they knew it was important for the next generation to have access to school. The women of “mama’s generation” sacrificed for something they thought more important than themselves: their children’s educations.