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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Suffragette Jewelry and Pink Pussy Hats

Mini Bead Crochet Pussy Hat Pattern

Whatever you think of them, the pink pussy hats made and worn by women as they march to uphold their rights quickly became a recognizable political symbol.  When a few of my friends joked about the fact that knitted hats are uncomfortable to wear during the summer, I got the idea of a miniature beaded pussy hat that you could wear as a pin or display on a key chain.

As I played with a way to incorporate the hat into a pin, I was struck by the fact that 100 years ago, women wore their political views on their bodies in the form of clothing and jewelry to support the movement to extend the right to vote to women.  

For those who don't know much about the struggle to vote, the idea of giving women the vote was discussed as early as 1860 in England, but there was no  real organized effort until 1897 when supporting groups were brought together in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).  The group's genteel approach to the issue resulted in little progress, so Sylvia Pankhurst broke away in 1903 and founded the Women's Political and Social Union with her 3 daughters.  Their motto was "Deeds Not Words" and, starting in 1905, they followed through with violent actions as well as marches.  WPSU members committed acts of arson and vandalism; when imprisoned, women went on hunger strikes.  One member, Emily Davison, died after she jumped in front of  King George V's racehorse during the running of the Epsom Derby in 1913.  These are the badass women that come to mind when we think of the Suffragette movement that eventually resulted in our right to vote.

The WPSU adopted the colors of purple (dignity), white (purity), and green (hope) in 1908 and supporters wearing those colors would march behind banners with the same trio of colors as they protested their lack of voting power.  Medals incorporating the groups colors were also presented in August of 1909 to the women who had gone on a hunger strike while serving a prison sentence for acts supporting women's suffrage.  

  While other suffrage organizations in England and America adopted variations of those colors, it is the purple, white, and green that most of use associate with suffragettes today.

Fashion was actually part of the arsenal of the suffragettes, as members were cautioned by Mrs. Pankhurst that "Suffragettes must not be dowdy"  and urged to outfit themselves in an appropriate manner.  Department stores such as Derry and Toms or Selfridges even advertised clothing incorporating the movement's colors in advertisements in the paper Votes for Women and in their shop windows.

While some of the jewelry was specifically made and sold to support the suffragettes, that combination of purple, green, and white was also popular at the turn of the century, thus much of the jewelry we now classify as "suffragette" may not be.  This brooch below is an example of one that uses the same color combination, but doesn't seem to have any connection to suffragettes. (It's a snake, I had to include it).  The colors still stick in our mind, though.

So the pink pussy hat is carrying on the same tradition of women using fashion and crafts to bolster political efforts.  That's why I designed the miniature pink pussy hat and why I used it along with purple, white, and green crystals to fashion a brooch.  I am sure that you can think of other uses for the little beaded hat.

The pattern is available in my Reckless Beading Etsy shop.  At first, I was going to offer the pattern for free but that means that anyone else could take the pattern and sell it or teach a class in how to make it.  So my compromise was to charge  for the pattern and donate $2 from every pattern sale to Planned Parenthood; I actually wanted to donate the money to the Pussy Hat Project as they are organizing more marches, but they never got back to me.  Given the passage of the new healthcare bill by the House, it seems like a lot of people on both sides may need help with healthcare, so Planned Parenthood seemed to be a good alternative for those who may lose their insurance in the future.

Happy Crocheting!