What will you wear to vote?
Election Day is finally here.
Every four years, Americans have the privilege and choice to descend upon the voting booths to participate in a right that so many have fought for for thousands of years, a right still denied to many in 2016.
While finding time during your day to vote, the last thing on your mind might be your choice of outfit. I personally rolled out of bed and walked down to the polls in my pajamas this morning; many people there seemed to be in a similar state of early morning, pre-coffee attire.
And yet around the country and across the web, you’re guaranteed to see a popular choice of color donned by voters today: white.
No, this is no mere coincidence. Instead, it is a movement, and indeed a way to pay homage, begun over a hundred years ago and, perhaps for the first time in American history, culminating this week.
Black and White
The important thing about history is how telling it truly is, both in terms of measuring our progress or being aware of a lack thereof.
As Election Day rolls around every four years, you are bound to know somebody, perhaps even yourself, who feels compelled to stay home because their “vote doesn’t matter.” While this is their right, it also demonstrates a huge amount of privilege as exercising that right is in many ways an insult to those who do not even have the ability to vote. For women and minorities, it ignores all those who fought for voter equality and paved the way for their right to vote today.
In 2016, it’s especially shocking to think that, less than a hundred years ago, women were generally excluded from elections. Though it depended on the territory and on whether or not a specific woman owned enough property, the majority of British and American women could not vote well into the 20th century.
The eventual passing of woman’s suffrage—1920 in the United States and 1928 in the United Kingdom—came only as the effort of thousands of brave female suffragists and suffragettes, many of whom endured violence, shame, abuse, and arrest for their beliefs. Their colors were violet, forest green, and white.
I’m With Her
White has become an especially important color this election season thanks in part to its association with peace and purity. Clinton’s supporters have used it as a signal that they do not support the violence and hatred they associate with Trump’s campaign, nor the scandals either party has suffered as of late. And they’re not the first to do so. Other famous politicians to wear white for symbolic events include Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress (1969), and Geraldine Ferraro, the first female candidate for vice president (1984).
Hillary herself has donned white versions of her signature pantsuits both at the Democratic National Convention and her final presidential debate.
Of course, supporters were quick to notice the symbolism here, and the modern #WearWhitetoVote movement was born as an extension of progressive history.
Wear White to Vote
Like many similar social movements and statements today, Wear White to Vote was born online and has gone viral since its inception on October 20th.
While browsing Instagram or Twitter, or even while at the polls, men and women in white outfits are common sights today, a tacit demonstration of their commitment to equality and a larger movement going back nearly 150 years.
But that’s not the only important visual from Election Day thus far. Hundreds of people in Rochester, New York have visited the grave of Susan B. Anthony, who campaigned alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton to become among the most influential American suffragists. Watch the moving video above.