The Clothesline Project

The Clothesline Project is a visual display that bears witness to the violence against women. During the public display, a clothesline is hung with shirts. Each shirt is decorated to represent a particular woman’s experience, by the survivor herself or by someone who cares about her. The Clothesline Project provides an opportunity for women to bear witness to their personal experience of violence and celebrate their transformation from victim to survivor in a powerful statement of solidarity.

The Clothesline Project began in 1990 when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda hung a clothesline across the village green in Hyannis, Massachusetts with 31 shirts designed by survivors of assault, rape and incest. Women viewing the clothesline came forward to create shirts of their own and the line just kept growing. Since that first display the Project has grown to 300+ local Clothesline Projects nationally and internationally, with an estimated 35,000 shirts. The Clothesline Project has become a distinctive resource for healing from violence and creating social change. Lines have been displayed at schools, universities, State Houses, shopping malls, churches and women’s events. The first National Display took place on April 8th – 9th 1995 in Washington DC.

Similar to the AIDS quilt, the Clothesline Project puts a human face on the statistics of violence against women. The Project increases awareness of the impact of violence against women, celebrates a woman’s strength to survive and provides an avenue for her to courageously break the silence. Families and friends of women who have died as a result of violence may wish to make shirt to express their deep loss. One of the beauties of this project is its simplicity. Survivors need not be artists to create a moving personal tribute. Whether they choose to use paint, permanent markers or elaborate embroidery to create their shirt is up to them. The power is in the personal

The Clothesline Project is about direct, personal violence against women and shirts can be colour coded for different types of violence:

  • White – for women who were murdered
  • Yellow or beige – for women who have been physically assaulted
  • Red, Pink or Orange – for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted
  • Blue or Green – for women who are survivors of incest or child sexual abuse
  • Purple or Lavender – for women who were attacked because they are or were perceived to be lesbian

However, these colours are not mandatory.

Workers from the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence Inc. became committed to the Clothesline Project when they attended the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

If you would like to create a shirt bearing witness to your personal experience of violence and contribute it to be part of our Clothesline Project or your agency would like to host a t-shirt making workshop or have the Clothesline Project displayed at your agency or would just like more information please contact us.

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