“What does a sash have to do with suffrage?”
People have been asking, “What does a sash have to do with suffrage?” and the answer is surprising, and inspiring at the same time. In her book Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women Margaret Finnegan not only does a fabulous job of describing and evaluating the suffrage movement in the United States, but she also discusses the tactics and strategies used by the new wave of suffragists. After several failed attempts to have the suffrage amendment passed many of the new suffragists of the early 20th century began looking at new ways to further their cause.
One of these new tactics was using window fronts in stores to display suffrage. Women in California successfully used this method in their 1911 campaign. Women in New York City used store fronts to advertise their cause, and catch the attention of passersby. Suffragists also began to purchase billboards and other large scale advertising in many of the big cities.
In addition to these means of advertising suffragists planned parades, speeches, and other social events. They were no longer working behind closed doors, but taking this issue to the streets and placing it in front of the public. Wearing sashes was part of this new effort. Using propaganda, such as a sash, gained a lot of attention, and got people talking.
This is why we are using these sashes. We don’t need to get an amendment passed, luckily that hard work has already been done, but we do have a mission to raise awareness so that women’s history is preserved. Gaining attention is the first step in getting people involved, and interested in this centennial celebration. We can’t sit behind closed doors and hope that people will take an interest; we must reach out to people and educate them on why 2012 is such an important year in Oregon. If you wear a sash in a public location you will be asked questions, it has happened to me countless times. Wear them with pride, and tell those curious people about the sashes, tell them why you are wearing yours today.
A hallmark of the twentieth century campaigns for woman suffrage was activists’ successful use of popular culture and the mass media. Here members of the Portland Woman’s Club Suffrage Campaign Committee, led by Esther Pohl Lovejoy (holding the umbrella) and supporter W. M. “Pike” Davis (at left), sold sandwiches and suffrage to Portland crowds during the June 1912 Rose Festival. (Courtesy Amy Khedouri)