Closing The Gap

Here's why congresswomen are being urged to wear white to Trump's State of the Union address

Member elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks to fellow members of Congress during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Member elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks to fellow members of Congress during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.

The House Democratic Women's Working Group is urging congresswomen of both parties to don white, a symbol of the women's suffrage movement, for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The group is led by Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida and includes all Democratic women House members. Its mission is to fight for women's rights, including equal pay, paid family leave and affordable healthcare. Frankel tweeted that she was "looking forward to wearing suffragette white" to "honor all those who came before us & send a message of solidarity that we're not going back on our hard-earned rights!"

Female politicians have often worn white to amplify feminist messages and pay homage to the suffrage movement. Along with gold and purple, white was an official color of the National Women's Party.

"The colors adopted by the union are purple, white and gold, selected for the significance they bear in the work the union has undertaken...White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose," said an early mission statement for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

Hillary Clinton wore a neatly tailored white pantsuit when she accepted the Democratic Party's nomination in 2016. On election day, female voters wore white as part of the social media movement #WearWhiteToVote to honor the women who fought for voting rights.

JULY 28, 2016: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton celebrates her nomination following the completion of the DNC on July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, PA.
Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images
JULY 28, 2016: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton celebrates her nomination following the completion of the DNC on July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, PA.

Clinton followed the lead of political predecessors, like Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 wore a white coat dress when she became the first woman to accept a major party vice presidential nomination. In 1969, Shirley Chisholm also wore white when she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

In February 2017, Democratic congresswomen dressed in white and made a visual statement of solidarity at Trump's joint address to Congress.

Members of congress wear white to honor the women's suffrage movement and support women's rights as U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Members of congress wear white to honor the women's suffrage movement and support women's rights as U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017

That day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted a picture of herself and other Democratic women in white and accused the president of failing to support women's rights.

In January 2019, some Democratic women wore white the day they were sworn into the 116th Congress. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York donned a white pantsuit and wrote in a tweet, "I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come. From suffragettes to Shirley Chisholm, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the mothers of the movement."

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