Posts Tagged ‘Suffragette movement’

Illustration by Nina Allender (1873-1957), American suffragist and political cartoonist.

Many suffragists spend more money on clothes than they can afford, rather than run the risk of being considered outré, and doing harm to the cause.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) – British suffragist.

In the early twentieth century, British suffragists chose to forgo pushing against contemporary fashion with practical masculine looks that were targeted in the press. Instead, they embraced the current trends and presented a fashionable feminine image. It made the movement less odd, more attractive and it soon became fashionable to identify with Votes for Women.

In 1908, Emily Pethick-Lawrence came up with a fashion branding idea – three colors for suffragists to wear to show their allegiance to the movement: purple for loyalty, white for purity, and green for hope. Tricolor ribbons were used on hats, belts, and badges.

American suffragists, following the lead of their British sisters, also branded the movement with three colors, but they switched out green for gold to honor the sunflower used in the 1867 Kansas referendum campaign. They wore white dresses to stand out in a crowd against men’s dark suits.


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One election year when I was in college, I got a bee in my bonnet about the importance of voting; I knew that college students tended not to vote. So, I wrote a letter to the editor of my university newspaper.

I kept it brief and said something like – We should all get out and vote. Particularly women, because we owe it to the many women before us who fought hard for the right.

When I arrived at work that election morning (I worked in a health food restaurant) one of my female co-workers approached me and said: “Moya, I wasn’t going to bother to vote but I read your letter to the editor and it inspired me.”

I was pleased to know that my small effort made even a slight difference.

California Suffragists.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women in the United States the right to vote. Even with that, not all women were welcomed at the polls; minority women suffered intimidation and voter suppression, something that continues today.

Since I was old enough to vote, I have never missed an election and this election in particular I am thinking of the thousands of women across America who, for decades, worked tirelessly for the right to vote. Not only did they work, they suffered and sacrificed as well. It would feel all wrong to take my right to vote for granted.

Ladies, don’t be left out! Have your say!


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Sylvia Pankhurst

Sylvia Pankhurst

Many suffragists spend more money on clothes than they can comfortably afford, rather than run the risk of being considered outré, and doing more harm to the cause.

– Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), English suffragette.

I recently read an article in The Guardian by fashion author and lecturer Cally Blackman about how women of the suffragette movement recognized the role of fashion in reaching their goals. “Haunted by the stereotypical image of the ‘strong-minded woman’ in masculine clothes, pebble-thick glasses and galoshes created by cartoonists, they chose instead to present a fashionable, feminine image,” says Blackman.

The approach worked, with increasing membership and a certain cachet in sporting the suffragette color scheme – purple for loyalty, white for purity, and green for hope. This early branding was helped along by Selfridges and Liberty department stores, who sold tricolor striped ribbon to adorn hats and make belts and badges. Trained as an artist at the Royal College of Art, Sylvia Pankhurst designed for the cause much of what today we would call marketing material.

Suffragette_posterSpeaking of all this women’s lib stuff, did you know that October 23rd is the US release of the film Suffragette? The London premiere a couple of weeks ago was quite the affair with protestors storming the red carpet. Not to protest the movie but simply to use the event to bring attention to their cause against domestic violence.

In Suffragette our own Meryl Streep stars as Sylvia Pankhurst. Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan round out the cast.

What I want to know is – will we see 1900s-influenced fashions next year?

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