College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The Clothesline Project




Annually, the Clothesline Project is organized by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at UNI  in conjunction with Relationship Violence Awareness month in October to create awareness about the continual violence against women, children, men, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized communities through the decoration (arts & writing positive words) of t-shirts.  The year 2021 marks the 10th year we are honoring survivors and allies against violence to express their emotions and feelings by decorating a t-shirt.  In the last 9 years, people on UNI’s campus have created and decorated 305 t-shirts for our collection. In honor of the victims and survivors of violence, the t-shirts are decorated in various colors that are coded and hung on a clothesline on a day of Bearing Witness. In past years, the clothesline hung around campus, throughout Sabin Hall, in front of Gilchrist, next to Rod Library, in front of the Campanile, and outside Maucker Union. 


How it started

The Clothesline Project originated in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, by a group of women after hearing that “while 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam War, there were 51,000 women killed around the same time by men who claimed to love them.” The statistic motivated the women to innovate a program that would speak up and reveal the issues of violence that women experience. A number of the women had personally experienced violence and wanted to find a revolutionary step to create awareness on this matter. Rachel Carey-Harper, one of the women who was a visual artist thought of hanging color-coded t-shirts on a clothesline in a public place to create awareness about the issue. Women at the time were the primary ones doing laundry and exchanging information while their clothes were hanging out to dry. This inspired the hanging of the decorated t-shirts on a clothesline to make it mirror a normal woman’s activity. This campaign got national attention and now is an international project organized to create awareness, to motivate people to take action, to allow victims to speak, and to comfort victims. The project affirms that it is in the honor of survivors who can make a difference by sharing their testimonies. 

T-Shirt representation

The different colors of shirts represent a wide range of abuse. These are what the color codes are and their meaning:

White represents women who died because of violence.​

white shirt

Yellow or beige represents survivors of domestic violence.

yellow shirt

Red, pink, and orange represent survivors of rape and sexual assault.

red shirtpink shirt

Blue or green represents survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

blue shirtgreen shirt

Purple or lavender represents women attacked because of their sexual orientation.

purple shirt

Black is for women assaulted for political reasons.

black shirt

Sounds associated with the Clothesline Project 

The gong, bell, and whistle

  • Women are battered every 10 to 12 seconds in the U.S. by their partners. The gong indicates someone is being battered.
  • The bell indicates a woman has been killed in a violent attack. In the US, 3 to 4 women are killed by their partners each day.
  • The whistle indicates a reported rape. Keep in mind, most rapes are not reported. Every minute of every day more than one woman reports being raped in the US. 

If you or your organization would like to participate in the Clothesline Project, you can do so by downloading a shirt and decorate it. Send all decorated shirts back via e-mail All submissions will remain anonymous.