Why Did Congresswomen Wear Black Flowers on International Women’s Day?

court house interior

*A full 65% of Americans report feeling special when receiving flowers as a gift. However, when it comes to International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman, flowers mean a little something more.

On March 8, dressed head to toe in red, female House Democrats led a walkout demonstration on Capitol Hill to show support for women’s rights nationwide. But the focal point wasn’t the red blouses, skirts, or even signs demanding equality and human rights. It was the black flowers pinned to the lapels of members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Symbolizing the fact that women’s equality and African American rights intersect in more ways than one, these black flowers created a stark visual contrast against the bright red power pantsuits.

When asked why they wore these flowers, members of the CBC explained that this was their small way to remind the world that African American women are at the bottom of both the social and economic ladder in our country.

New Jersey Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, who came up with the idea, explained to ATTN:

“The struggles of women are multiplied when coupled with race whether we quantify economics, education or even opportunity. I wear this flower in recognition of my awareness of the unique and relevant cross-section of racism and sexism and my fight for those women at every turn.”

Back in the 1910s, the sunflower was used as a symbol for women’s suffrage. That movement was predominately white, so the CBC wanted to choose a flower with a little bit more meaning. They also wanted to highlight that there is still racism, gender bias, and segregation happening around the country to this very day.

Just take a look at jobs; since 2000 women have been earning 77% to 79% of what their male peers earn, and this percentage drops even further when split into ethnic groups. The Pew Research Center reports that African American women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States today, with African American women earning a measly 64% compared to Caucasian men.

This jarring inequality is just one of the reasons behind International Women’s Day. Celebrated on March 8, the international event highlighted the importance of equal rights for women around the world.

Yet it is important to note that these women lawmakers did not spend the entire day demonstrating. After their hour demonstrating out on Capitol Hill in support of women’s rights, they quickly turned and went back inside to work. It’s been more than 200 years since the U.S. Constitution was created, and these lawmakers are living prove of just how much the country has evolved in that time.

The demonstration was a partisan affair, as only Democrat lawmakers participated in the walkout.

For perspective, the House of Representatives is composed of 435 members elected every two years from among the 50 states. Of that number, only 88 are women, and 193 are members of the Democratic Party.


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