White has long been a color of feminist folklore.
Suffragettes in the U.K. and suffragists in the U.S. both wore white at rallies and protests. (The National Woman’s Party mission statement explained that the color symbolized purity—and thus, “the quality of our purpose.”) So did the thousands of men and women who marched on Washington in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978. Shirley Chisholm wore white when she won a historic election for Congress. Geraldine Ferraro wore white when she accepted a historic nomination as the Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential Candidate in 1984. Hillary Clinton herself has paid homage to the legacy of women before her by donning the color at the Democratic National Convention during her acceptance speech and at the last two presidential debates.
As an election season fueled by sexism winds down to a close, women across the country have staged one last act of feminist defiance: they’re wearing white to vote. (And tweeting about it.)
“Twice, Hillary Clinton has worn white to honor the Suffragettes who were ostracized, beat, force-fed, and jailed fighting for our right to vote,” wrote DailyKos diarist estorm in a post calling on members of the community to wear white on Election Day. “I propose that we use her as an example, and that we wear white on November 8, 2016. Wear white even if you plan on voting before Election Day. Wear white to honor Hillary and all those that came before her.”
Liza Lugo, J.D., posted a similar call on her HubPages account:
In light of all of the women who came before and fought and died for my right to vote, I’m wearing white on Election Day. To pay homage to the attorney who was denied admission to Harvard and Yale because she was a woman, for Inez Milholland and the other attorneys who made it possible for my own admission to law school, I will wear white on Election Day.
For the women who represented the writer’s delegation at that amazing parade in 1913, who opened the doors for female authors – one of the most critical forms of exercising free speech, because they led the way for me to be able to write professionally, I will wear white on Election Day.
For the suffragists who went unprotected and their cries ignored by police officers on the day the mob attacked them and for the women whose cries continued to get ignored when they reported instances of domestic violence and abuse to authorities, I will wear white on Election Day.
For the women who lost their innocence in the course of sexual violence, I will wear white on Election Day. For the women who died during childbirth and labor, who could have been saved, I will wear white on Election Day. And for those women who have died at the hands of their abusers, I will wear white on Election Day.
Finally, in honor of the hundreds of thousands of military personnel and the civilians at home who spent 240 years fighting to maintain this Republic, free elections and holding steadfast to the creed, “All are created Equal and have the right to Equal Protection under the law,” I am wearing white on Election Day. I hope other women will too.
Women’s votes will decide the 2016 election. As reported in the Summer 2016 issue of Ms., the gender gap is predicted to be the largest in history—and the kinds of issues that drive women, people of color, and other marginalized groups to the polls are taking center stage. Regardless of who you’re voting for, wearing white is a fitting homage to the political power women have cultivated in the U.S. since the ratification of the 19th Amendment nearly a century ago—and all those who led the fight for its actualization.
Are you wearing white when you vote?