Ladies in Hats

The most iconic symbol of Suffrage, both UK and USA, is hats. It was not a conscious choice as much as an outcome. Ladies, working women, even school girls wore hats. Rather, it was the invasion of hats into men’s sphere that was new. Like a swarm of bees, hats buzzed into the man’s world.

In 1910, there were no hats in Congress, on lobbyists heads or in chambers, as gentlemen removed their hats. In fact, hats became a suffrage tool of making a spectacle. One could not ignore ladies marching up to Congress for the VOTE.

Government men complained that the 64th Congress was occupied by ladies heels constantly clicking on the white marble floors. The more the men objected, the more ladies showed up.  From the gallery to the offices, there was a constant parade of hats under which ticked an unwelcome insistence for a voice, a vote, an office, full equality.

One congressman said, “Women don’t know anything about politics. Did you ever hear them talking together? Well, first they talk about fashions and children and housework, and, then perhaps, about churches and, then perhaps, about theaters, and, then perhaps,” he finally added, “Do you think I want my wife working against my interests?”

These militants had the hearts of warriors, the tactics of soldiers and the fashion sense of Selfridges. They intentionally dressed as women of means, carried chalk in their handbags for public announcements and wore hatpins, good for defense if needed. Alice Paul assigned each of her army a member of Congress to follow, track, and stay in their view.

As one member of Congress remarked,
“Miss Paul and her ladies turned the halls of
Congress in to a “Millinery Establishment.”

Make no mistake, these ladies were conscious, dedicated and knew precisely the task at hand. They marched in procession, walked the halls of Congress, stood at the White House fence, always calculating their moves on the road to full constitutional equality. Hat and gloves, they wore their costumes which said,

WOMEN ARE READY TO VOTE.

One Hundred years later many of us are sewing commemorative costumes, creating replica signs, and making a hat. Remember this, poor women, working women, wealthy women, union women, rancher women, farming women, pioneer women, debutantes and socialites all dressed to tell the country, women are ready to vote. Wear a Stetson, a bandana, a Liberty Gage hat, or a fabulous ballcap, we are all ready and longing to vote.

Suffrage is not finished until every American can vote.

For more, see Alice Paul, The Heart of an Activist,