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Dakota Datebook

Suffrage Symbols


On this date in 1913, well-known North Dakota resident Sara Cushing received accolades for her recent submission of “a design in the form of a sticker for use on all correspondence, which met with the immediate approval of the suffrage leaders as the insignia for which they have been wishing. The design is in the suffrage colors, yellow and white, and the two phrases, Service for Uplift and Votes for Women, are prominent.” The Fargo Forum noted, “North Dakota has the honor of being the home of the author of what is expected to be the national emblem for the suffrage cause.”


Sara Cushing was well-known in the state. She was a music aficionado, bringing musical productions to the state such as operas and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also involved in various organizations, such as the State Federation of Women’s Clubs.


She was married to Walter F. Cushing, newspaper editor, once connected to the railroad, and a friend of Theodore Roosevelt. The couple had lived in Fargo, Bismarck, and Beach, with both involved with building their communities.


Cushing’s design employed various themes, colors, and symbols in use by the women’s suffrage movement in campaigns worldwide. Though not all were universal, they combined to create specific narratives. The golden yellow color associated with women’s suffrage in the United States was used nation-wide; and it was noted that this color symbolized “the color of light and life…the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.” White was also often displayed as part of the coloring. This symbolized purity—especially important to their cause as suffragists were being drawn and characterized as masculine, plain, or ugly women, with feminized men taking over domestic duties. 


In 1914 in Fargo, the suffragists sold a common symbol, a “dainty yellow rose” that made for “attractive button-hole bouquets.” It was reported that many men and women alike were purchasing and wearing them. This helped raise funds, mostly for postage expenses. 


Meanwhile, anti-suffragists took up the red rose as their symbol, using the “most beautiful flower in America” to show their displeasure of suffragists, and the “street parades, ‘hikes,’ and other spectacular and unwomanly tactics.”


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker





The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, July 9, 1913, p5

Jamestown Weekly Alert, August 4, 1921, p6


The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Oct. 28, 1914, p7

Bismarck Daily Tribune, May 8, 1914, p5

The Bismarck Tribune, February 13, 1935, p1

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