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Hi History Fan.
Thanks for your question.
The first major campaign for women’s suffrage in the U.S. was an 1867 referendum in Kansas. During that campaign, suffragists like Susan B. Anthony used the sunflower (the State flower) as a symbol of their cause. Yellow flowers and yellow ribbons thus became emblematic of the women’s rights movement and agitation for the vote. For example, Utah suffragists often wore yellow flowers or ribbons at their rallies in the 1890s and decorated with yellow for suffrage events. Yellow, or gold, was the only color used by all U.S. women's suffrage organizations.
When the National Woman’s Party—formed from a group that split off from the National American Woman Suffrage Association due to a disagreement over tactics—was established in 1916, leader Alice Paul borrowed the color scheme used by British suffragettes. While the British movement used green, white, and violet (for Give Women the Vote), Paul substituted gold for green to continue the American suffrage tradition.
In a newsletter, the National Woman's Party described the meaning of the colors like this: “Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”
For more on the symbols of the women's suffrage movement, you can look at this National Park Service site.
Hope that helps!
National Women’s History Museum
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