Public Awareness

Clothesline Project

Clothesline Project


The Clothesline Project is a display that bears witness to violence against women. During the public display, a clothesline is hung with shirts decorated to represent a particular woman or child's experience with violence.

The original international project started with 31 shirts hung in Hyannis, Massachusetts in October 1990. Since that time, over 250 projects have begun in communities around the globe with almost 30,000 shirts on display.

North Dakota had its first Clothesline Project display on February 28 and March 1, 1995 in the Great Hall of the Capitol Building during the legislative session. There were 114 shirts at that time.


According to the Men's Anti-Rape Center in Washington DC, 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam War. During that same period of time, 51,000 women were killed by men who supposedly loved them. That statistic became the catalyst for the Cape Cod Women's Agenda to consciously develop a program that would educate, break the silence and bear witness to one issue, violence against women.

This small core group of lesbian and straight women, many of whom had experienced some form of personal violence, wanted to find a unique way to take staggering, mind-numbing statistics and turn them into provocative, "in-your-face" educational and healing tool.

After a few months of discussion, one of the women, a visual artist who had been moved by the power of the AIDS quilt, came up with the concept of using shirts - hanging on a clothesline - as the vehicle for raising awareness around the issue of violence against women. The idea of using a clothesline was a natural. Doing the laundry has always been considered women's work, and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods, women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry. The concept was simple - let each woman tell her own story, in her own unique way, and hang it out for all to see. It was and is a way of airing society's dirty laundry.


To bear witness to the survivors as well as the victims of violence 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.


We would like each shirt to reflect the woman or child's personal experience. You may include a name, date, and memorabilia such as tools of a trade or symbols of interest.

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 dyes or indelible ink.
We ask women to send shirts, blouses or t-shirts of durable material preferably with the following color code:

WHITE for women who have died because of violence.
YELLOW or BEIGE for women who have been battered or assaulted.
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.
RED for children who have witnessed or been the target of violence in their homes.
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.

To participate, make a donation, request further information, or book the Clothesline Project, contact:

ND Council on Abused Womenss Services
418 East Rosser Avenue #320
Bismarck, ND 58501
Call (701) or (888) 255-6240