How Red Lipstick Has Epitomized Defiance Throughout History

This is when things really get interesting. Legend has it that women who were marching and protesting for the right to vote wore red lipstick to symbolize their mission and further the fight. More specifically, it’s said that Elizabeth Arden, the businesswoman and boundary-pushing beauty savant, handed out red lipstick to suffragists as they were marching past her Fifth Avenue storefront, as she herself was a staunch supporter of the cause. 

Here’s the thing, though. It’s difficult to find proof of this. As Parsons puts it, “Women in the suffrage movement would have used lipstick as a means of rebellion, power, and feminism if in fact it actually happened.” I wanted to know more, so I went straight to the source: Elizabeth Arden, the very same global beauty brand founded by the namesake cosmetics maven.

Janet Curmi is the VP of global education and development at Elizabeth Arden. She says Elizabeth Arden was pioneering when it came to introducing red lipstick to American beauty trends. “Before 1912, makeup was not acceptable for most American women, with it generally only being worn by performers and alike,” she says. “On her first trip to Paris in 1912, Elizabeth Arden took note of the city’s fashionable elite—women who attended the theater and opera, with their lashes lacquered and their cheeks tinted with rouge. On her return to New York, she wasted no time in formulating the first rouges and tinted powders, as well as mascara and eye shadow for American women. Around the same time, Vogue published an article suggesting that ‘a little rouge, discreetly used, might make a woman look healthier and younger.’ Soon after, makeup became the height of fashion in American society, with Elizabeth Arden pioneering the industry in America to match the rising demand.”

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