Why Congressional Women Are Inspirational AF

It’s no secret that the women in Congress have been breaking records since the midterm elections. 129 women hold places in the Senate and the House, which is the highest number in history—up from 110 in 2018. Marsha Blackburn, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Kyrsten Sinema all made history for being the first female senators from their states (Tennessee, Mississippi and Arizona, respectively). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest female senator ever sworn in, and Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. All of these records made headlines during election season, and again when the 116th Congress convened on January 3, 2019.

These women have been busy. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her Congress orientation via Instagram stories (aptly titled Congress Camp) to her 2.2 million followers; Jennifer Wexton hung the trans pride flag outside her office to honor one of her family members and to support the trans community. Many congresswomen have been making headlines for their efforts to clearly show what they want to do as members of the government and to include their constituents in the process.

At the State of the Union address on February 5th, they made headlines again.

Many Democratic women and their guests chose to wear white in order to honor the women’s suffrage movement and a century of the 19th Amendment, while also bringing attention to women’s rights issues of today.

It is important to know a bit of background regarding the significance of the color white, as suffragists in the early 1900s wore white for many reasons. Criticism of the women’s suffrage movement was identical to many criticisms of women today; they looked masculine and seemed aggressive with their message. White dresses and blouses dispelled this idea, symbolized purity, and were affordable for women in all economic classes. The clothing also stood out in black-and-white photographs, which made for clear pictures that would be featured in newspapers.

This contrast can be seen in the full picture of the attendees at the State of the Union address, showing that the tactics that worked 100 years ago are still visually striking today.

Amanda Litman, the executive director of the PAC Run for Something, thought the wave of white was inspiring. “It’s an indication that we’re building on a movement and that any single woman’s achievements do not stand alone,” she told The Washington Post. “She is standing on the shoulders of the women who came before her.”

Additionally, many congresswomen chose their guests to the event to make a point; for example, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) brought Jeff Binkley, whose daughter was killed in a shooting last year. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) brought Lisa J. Graumlich, a climate scientist from the University of Washington. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) brought Linda Clark, an immigrant from Liberia who is facing deportation. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) brought Estefany Pineda, a Dreamer from Massachusetts. Making statements with guests isn’t anything new; people have been doing it for years. However, it’s always interesting to see who the guests are, and these congresswomen have shown that their interests lie with their constituents, and that they’re willing to be vocal about important issues by showing up, taking a stand, and wearing white.