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Congresswomen in White

Photo: The New Yorker

At this year’s State of the Union Address, the women of Congress strikingly stood out. In a sea of black suits in a dark room, the seats in the middle of the chamber were filled with women all wearing white. With 102 women in the House of Representatives, the most Congress has seen in the history of the United States, this show of solidarity sent a message aimed at President Trump. “Today we stand together wearing white in solidarity with the women of the suffrage movement who refused to take no for an answer,” said Representative Brenda Lawrence, in light of the event, said, “To an administration that has closed its eyes to women, we will be seen.”

The color white has historically been used to symbolize the women’s rights movement.  Suffragettes in the 20th century commonly wore white to stick out in black and white photos and to generate publicity as they fought for their rights. The country also celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment this year, which gave women the right to vote, giving the women more of a reason to wear the color at the address. In 1978, marchers wore white in support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and during the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton wore white to accept the Democratic Nomination. Supporters of Clinton wore white on election day as they stood in line at the polls to vote, hoping to witness America’s first woman president. And while the congresswomen didn’t wear white during last year’s State of the Union Address, many wore black in support of the #MeToo movement.

During his speech, even Trump addressed the progress women have made so far, claiming that “No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled fifty-eight percent of the new jobs created in the last year.” After mentioning that there are “more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” the block of white in the audience stood to their feet, and a chant of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” erupted soon after. Much like how the Suffragettes almost a century ago caught the attention of media coverage with their color of choice, the congresswomen of 2019 made their mark by reminding the women of the country that they will be seen, even while standing in the face of opposition.

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