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Women wore white at the State of the Union to highlight a historic first

A sea of Democratic women in white was meant to draw attention to the growing ranks of women in Congress.

Women Congress members, dressed in white in tribute to the women’s suffrage movement, pose for a photo as they arrive for the State of the Union address on February 5, 2019.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Tuesday’s State of the Union featured a striking visual: row after row of women lawmakers in the audience wearing white to honor past suffragists.

The decision to wear white was a coordinated effort among Democratic women as they sought to make a statement about representation — and it was exceedingly noticeable because of the historic number of women involved.

There are currently a record-breaking 102 women serving in the House of Representatives, 89 of whom are Democrats and 13 of whom are Republicans. The House Democratic majority is also led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first and only woman ever to hold the position. In the Senate, 25 women are currently serving as well.

This congressional House class includes not only the most women ever elected to these positions but also a series of historic firsts. Among the House first-term members alone, there are the first Native American women ever elected to Congress, the first Muslim American women, and the youngest women.

President Donald Trump went out of his way to acknowledge this Congress’s milestone during his remarks, prompting cheers from the audience.

“All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before. Don’t sit yet. You are going to like this,” Trump said, “And exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.”

Congresswomen cheered during the 2019 State of the Union, while wearing white to honor suffragists.

Thirty-five of the women in the House were elected as part of the latest freshman class, which also happens to be one of the most diverse Congress has seen, including numerous first-time candidates.

These lawmakers are part of a wave of women who won races in the 2018 midterms, a cycle that saw a groundbreaking number of women not only declare their candidacies but ultimately secure seats in Congress.

Their overwhelming victories were clearly evident on Tuesday night.