The Clothesline Project: Bearing Witness to Violence Against Women
What is the Penn State Clothesline Project?
The Penn State 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 began with thirty-one shirts hung in Hyannis, Massachusetts in the Fall of 1990. Since that time, projects have begun in communities all across the country and in other countries as well.
View photos of the Clothesline Project's visit to Penn State.
The purpose of the project is four-fold:
- To bear witness to the survivors as well as the victims of the war against women.
- To help with the healing process for people who have lost a loved one or are survivors of this violence.
- To educate, document, and raise society's awareness of the extent of the problem of violence against women.
- To provide a nationwide network of support, encouragement, and information for other communities starting their own Clothesline Projects.
What goes on the Penn State Clothesline?
We ask women to send shirts, blouses, or tee shirts of durable material preferably with the following color code:
- WHITE for women who have died of violence
- YELLOW or BEIGE for women who have been battered or assaulted
- RED, PINK, or ORANGE for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted
- BLUE or GREEN for women survivors of incest or child sexual abuse
- PURPLE or LAVENDER for women attacked because of their sexual orientation
You need not be an artist to create a moving, personal tribute. Whether you choose simply to paint or sew elaborate embroidery is up to you - any remembrance is appropriate. These colors are not mandatory if a different color or pattern has a special significance to you.
Creating a shirt
We would like each shirt to reflect the woman's personal experience. You may include a name, date, and memorabilia such as tools of a trade or symbols of interest. Shirts and materials will be available at each display for people who wish to design a shirt at the time.
Some suggestions for enduring durability
- use a natural fabric
- sew rather than using glue
- photocopy photographs onto iron-ons
- use acrylic or textile paint, color-fast dye or indelible ink
For women killed
You may want to submit a shirt that belonged to her. Please show on the shirt the woman's name, date of birth and death and hometown. When the shirt is complete you may wish to take the time to write a description of the person you have memorialized. Please include information you wish to share about her death. Tell us what this person meant to you and how you think she should be remembered. Enclose a photograph of the person if you have one you are willing to part with. We cannot be responsible for returning photographs or momentos.
Because making a shirt is part of the healing process for survivors of violence, shirts should be submitted by the survivor. If not possible, a shirt for a survivor should be submitted with her written persmission. We ask that you respect their anonymity by not using their name. Last name or hometown are not required. We would appreciate whatever information you or she would like to share. We will respect requests for confidentiality.
Naming the perpetrator is an important part of the healing process. But, for legal reasons, we cannot display shirts with full names of the perpetrators. We ask that shirt makers use first names or initials if they wish to name their violator.