The striking colors were used by the suffragettes to protect themselves as they battled for the right of vote. In 1912, beauty pioneer Elizabeth Arden handed them the bullets—tiny, but mighty tubes of red lipstick that were shaped like ammunition.

This bold act symbolized independence and strength  defiance all in one.

“It wasn’t worn by everybody at that point,” Bésame Cosmetics founder and author of Makeup: A History of Classic Beauty Gabriela Hernandez CelebHomes. They were trying to tell CelebHomes, “Hey, they’re independent and different, and wear what we like.”

It was the red lipstick that became so essential for World War II, thanks to the wild determination of the suffragists. To use its raw materials in World War II, many beauty brands stopped production.

Hernandez observed that they first cut it off. “But then they saw morale really slip—not only their morale but the morale of the soldiers who wanted pretty girls to come back to.”

Elizabeth Arden once again was linked with a historic moment. To help lift their spirits, she created a fire-engine shade called Montezuma Red—an homage to the Marine Corps’ hymn—and was given the exclusive right to sell makeup on military bases.

Hernandez explained that the color “that was used to boost morale” was targeted at women. There weren’t many pantyhose. It was not possible to find a lot of fabric. Lipsticks were the only thing that remained.