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Is purple the color of women’s history month?

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women throughout history. You may have noticed a lot of purple used during this month – from purple decorations to people wearing purple clothes and accessories. So why has purple become so closely associated with Women’s History Month? In this article, we’ll take a look at the history behind the color purple and its significance for women.

The History of Purple

Purple has long been associated with royalty, power, and wealth. In ancient times, Tyrian purple dye derived from sea snails was highly prized and could only be afforded by the rich and elite. The rarity and expense of purple fabrics gave purple garments a status symbol among rulers and nobles in societies across the ancient world from Rome to Egypt.

Later during the 15th-17th centuries in Europe, purple retained its status as a color linked to royalty. Queen Elizabeth I decreed that only close members of the royal family could wear purple. Because purple dye was so costly to produce, the color purple became a display of wealth, status, and exclusivity.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement

During the late 1800s, as the women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum, purple became associated with feminism and women’s rights. Women’s suffrage activists in the United Kingdom chose purple, white, and green as the colors to represent the movement. These colors were chosen symbolically:

  • Purple represented dignity and justice
  • White represented purity
  • Green represented hope

Women’s suffrage supporters would wear purple, white, and green during marches and protests as a visual emblem of their cause. Purple dresses, sashes, hats, flags, and banners helped make the colors instantly recognizable as representing the fight for women’s right to vote.

Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party

In the United States during the early 20th century, suffragist Alice Paul also adopted purple, white, and gold as the colors of the women’s suffrage movement. Paul founded the National Woman’s Party, which staged protests and marches in support of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Members of Paul’s organization wore purple capes and white outfits with purple stripes during parades and demonstrations. After women won the right to vote in 1920, Paul’s National Woman’s Party adopted the color scheme as its official colors.

Geraldine Ferraro’s 1984 Campaign

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first female vice presidential candidate for a major political party when she ran with Walter Mondale on the Democratic ticket. Her campaign embraced the color purple as a symbol of women in politics, using purple posters, ads, buttons, and banners.

Ferraro said purple represented “the new blend of blue and red that represents unity in politics.” Her campaign helped further establish purple as a representative color for women’s equality and advancement.

Purple’s Modern Connection to Feminism

Today, purple continues to be a color associated with feminist ideals and women’s empowerment. It is often used in conjunction with other feminist symbols like the Venus symbol.

Various women’s rights groups have incorporated purple into their branding and visual identities. For example:

  • EMILY’s List, a political organization that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates, uses purple in its logo.
  • Planned Parenthood uses purple as part of its identifier.
  • The National Organization for Women (NOW) pairs purple with white on their website.

So the use of purple by groups supporting women’s issues reinforces purple as a representative color of feminism.

Origin of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month grew out of a movement to recognize and honor the often overlooked achievements of American women. The idea of Women’s History Month was conceived in 1978 by the Santa Rosa, California school district, which established a Women’s History Week. Then in 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Women’s History Week presidential proclamation.

Congress passed a resolution establishing National Women’s History Week in 1981. Finally in 1987, Congress expanded the observance to the entire month of March and designated March as National Women’s History Month.

Purple and Women’s History Month

Given purple’s long legacy as a symbol of women’s empowerment, it makes sense that it has become the representative color of Women’s History Month celebrations.

Here are some reasons why purple is an appropriate color choice:

  • It pays homage to the suffragists who adopted purple as an emblem of their struggle.
  • It carries forward the tradition started by Geraldine Ferraro’s 1984 campaign.
  • It aligns with modern associations of purple with women’s equality and advancement.
  • It provides a visual unifying element for Women’s History Month.

Many feminist organizations and women’s advocacy groups use purple in their March marketing materials, social media campaigns, displays, and decorations. Schools, libraries, businesses, and other institutions also frequently incorporate purple when celebrating Women’s History Month.

So while purple doesn’t have an “official” designation as the color of Women’s History Month, it has certainly become an unofficial representative color due to its long-standing connection to women’s achievements and promotion of women’s rights.

Other Colors Associated With Women’s History Month

While purple is arguably the most prominent, it isn’t the only color associated with Women’s History Month. Here are some other colors commonly seen:

  • White – Recalling the white of the suffragette movement, white is often paired with purple for Women’s History Month.
  • Gold – Alice Paul chose the purple, white, and gold color scheme for the National Woman’s Party.
  • Green – The green of the suffragettes’ tricolor scheme is sometimes included.
  • Red – Red is connected to labor rights and can represent socialist/Marxist feminism.
  • Pink – Pink is associated with traditional femininity but has also been reclaimed by some feminist groups.

But purple, both on its own and paired with white, tends to be the most prominent and recognizable color choice.

Criticisms of the Purple Connection

While many embrace purple’s connection to Women’s History Month, some feminist scholars argue that focusing too much on colors and symbology distracts from the real work of advocating for women’s rights and gender equality.

Colors like purple run the risk of reinforcing gender stereotypes if people associate them too narrowly with women. Critics argue that no particular color needs to represent women’s empowerment.

There are also issues around intersectionality and diversity in the imagery associated with feminism. The traditional white, middle-class suffragette model often dominates marketing and events, which can alienate women of color and overlook their contributions.

However, supporters believe that purple and other colors, when used thoughtfully, can serve as powerful visual tools to unite diverse coalitions to promote women’s advancement in society.


While purple does not have any official designation, it has become the de facto representative color of Women’s History Month through its historical and continued associations with women’s empowerment causes. The rich visual heritage of the color purple makes it a fitting tribute to honor the many achievements of women throughout history as we celebrate another Women’s History Month.