But white dresses, what about women's suffrage for black women?????????
One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.
-- George W. Bush
Lord, man! Did you even bother to look at the pictures when you read your high school US history texts?
I'm not suggesting that you would have recalled all the details, but in remembering whatever you were taught and read should surely include imagery of "bunch of early 20th century women in white marching." That alone fairly well explains why the Congresswomen last night wore white. And, honestly, other than the names a few women whose specific roles escaped me, I don't expect most folks recall much other than the general nature of a photo or two because, well, that was about all I recalled, so I can't very well expect more than that of anyone else.
1913 Women's Suffrage Parade
Inez Milholland about to lead the parade
Margaret van Howe and other suffragettes
1913 NYC Women's suffrage parade
October 1915 Women's Suffrage Parade
1916 Democratic National Convention Suffragette Silent Protest
Why did those pioneering women choose white as the color of their dresses? Specifically, I didn't know, but having not long ago watched the series American Style
, I abducted the reason was something pretty straightforward, perhaps this: a bunch of folks wearing all-white stood out amidst the crowds and pretty much everything else in their day of black-and-white-only photography.
Googling gave me a sensible answer in just one shot
. Rebecca Boggs Roberts, author of Suffragists in Washington, D.C.: The 1913 Parade and the Fight for the Vote
- 2019 SOTU -- "It’s a color that’s going to stand out in a sea of navy suits, so that looks good on television."
- Re: the early 1900s:
- The white was also intended to look nonthreatening so people would have a harder time criticizing the women’s appearance as aggressive or masculine.
- When the biggest publicity tool was newspapers and images were black and white, (if) you make a good photo, it gets reproduced everywhere. And there is nothing they did that they did not consider the visual element to.
- A century ago, U.S. suffragists carefully chose the colors of their flag. Purple represented loyalty and was a nod to England’s suffragettes. White symbolized purity and contrasted with the flag’s darker colors. Gold paid homage to the sunflowers in Kansas, where Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had campaigned for the right to vote.
- White was an accessible costume color for women of all income groups because an ordinary white dress was something everyone had, by simply adding a purple or yellow accessory, voila, suffragist costume. (Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election)
As for black women's suffrage, which couldn't happen sans all women's suffrage, do the names Ida B. Wells, Mary Mcleod Bethune
and Mary Church Terrell
not ring a bell with you? They too donned suffrage white. As Einav Rabinovitch-Fox notes, dressing like the white suffragists enabled them to simultaneously promote women’s rights and racial equality. That notwithstanding, Black women, though they contributed to advancing the suffragist cause, their being black resulted in notable discounting of their efforts
. For instance, black women received no mention in Anthony's and Stanton's History of Woman Suffrage
Perhaps, however, those three women's names don't ring a bell. That they might not is part of what Blacks refer to when they gripe or remark about the legacy of discrimination in the US. Though Black men and women played important roles in, contributed to and died to aid and abet every major event in
America's development and propagation of freedom -- be it from the British (Crispus Attucks
), from slavery, for women's suffrage
, workers' rights, etc. -- yet far too often their having done obtain barely a footnote in high school US history texts. Instead, the roles Black Americans played is largely consigned to the content in elective African American history courses.