With every political or social movement, particular types of accessories emerge. Often fastened to jackets, blouses, bags, and even shoes, I am, of course, talking about buttons and pins. These adornments have been part of the United States scenery since the country’s beginning. During the first presidential inauguration, supporters of George Washington wore copper buttons with his initials in the center. A chain surrounding the button’s rim had links representing each of the original thirteen states.
Just a few words or simple image can convey a powerful message. Supporters of the woman suffrage movement wore buttons to express their belief that women deserved the right to vote. When 168 women suffragists were released from jail in 1917 for picketing the White House, they each received a Jailed for Freedom pin. (FYI: American women finally had full voting rights when the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted on August 26, 1920. Next year marks its complicated 100th anniversary). Madeleine Albright during her tenure as Secretary of State famously wore pins to express opinions when meeting with members of government at home and abroad. On good days she wore flowers or butterflies; on bad days bugs and carnivorous animals.
Sit down with the girl(s) in your life and create your own buttons. Purchase a kit of snap together craft buttons (like the ones to the right). Get out markers, pens, crayons, scissors and a couple of pieces of cardstock. Discuss the details chosen for the designs (colors, images, wording, placement). What messages do you each hope the buttons communicate? What are the meanings behind the chosen symbols? Turn your drawings into memorable button keepsakes.
The Busy Beaver Button Museum has put together an online publication about the history of buttons. The museum was started by Busy Beaver Button Co., a woman-owned business based in Chicago and is a great resource if you’re needing 50 plus buttons printed.
Creating a Female Political Culture: Google curated a historical collection of images about American women political culture.
Ann Lewis Women’s Suffrage Collection: Buttons and Ribbons.
In 2009, Madeleine Albright spoke with NPR about her pins and shared some of the stories behind their meaning. You can see her collection in the book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box.
For another project to do with your girl, check out the What I Like About Me activity on the Girls That Create website.
Disclaimer: This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the site to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.