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Royalty To Resilience: The Transformation Of The Colour Purple

by Yilun Law

Yilun Law is the Creative Director at oeurs, making handcrafted, versatile and utilitarian leather shoes for women. Applying the finest traditional shoemaking and leather crafting skills, oeurs ensure the beautiful historical language of fine men’s dress shoe-making is translated fluently into their collections.

What does the colour purple mean to you? 

Perhaps it reminds you of the beauty of nature or represents enlightenment and consciousness if you're a yogi. Maybe you associate purple with nobility and royalty, as it was historically an expensive and rare dye used only for the wealthy. 

But did you know that purple also played a significant role in the early 20th-century women's rights movement? The suffragettes, who tirelessly fought for women's empowerment and equality, proudly wore purple as a symbol of their cause.

For the suffragettes, purple was the perfect embodiment of their values and aspirations. Combining the loyalty and constancy represented by blue with the courage and passion of red, purple symbolised the suffragettes' determination to challenge traditional gender roles and power structures. Moreover, purple was associated with royalty, a symbol of the noble cause for which they were fighting.

Votes for Women, Hyde Park Demonstration, London, June 21, 1908, Souvenir program

The suffragettes were far from perfect, with marginalized voices often excluded or even oppressed, their accomplishments in advancing women's rights cannot be ignored. This is why purple has been embraced not only as a colour of the feminist movement but also by the LGBTQIA community. To them, the colour purple represents dignity, courage, diversity, complexity, visibility and determination.

Detail from the song sheet of Ethyl Smyth’s The March of the Women, by Margaret Morris (1911)

The suffragettes' use of purple forever changed the meaning of the colour. It transformed from a symbol of wealth and power into a symbol of women's strength and resilience. 

As we celebrate Women's History Month and the progress made towards gender equality, let us remember the brave women who fought for our rights. Although much work still needs to be done, the colour purple serves as a reminder of the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done.