An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

UFOs, hatpins and the politics of women’s rights

If you look hard enough there is very little in life that is not political. However, I was more than a little surprised to learn that my decision to turn some of my UFOs (last blog post) into beaded hatpins has led be to the politics of women’s rights.

Researching creative ways to wear hatpins in the 21st century I found that the early feminists in the 1800s wore hatpins as a symbol of freedom and their demands for equality. Just as the second wave feminists in the 1960s burnt their bra as a symbol of freedom and defiance, so the early feminists ‘burnt’ their bonnet strings and wore hatpins instead to secure their hats and bonnets. Those early feminists also used hatpins as defensive weapons against police violence during demonstrations for women’s right to vote in many countries. For instance, in 1912 73 year-old Emma Miller, a Brisbane (Australia) suffragette, used a hatpin to unhorse the then Queensland Police Commissioner. The feminist symbolic meanings of the hatpin led an English judge in 1908 to order a group of suffragettes to remove their hatpins and hats in his court. Similarly, the use of the hatpin by women as a defensive weapon led the USA the government of Arkansas legislated to restrict the length of hatpins that women could wear in public. If women wore hatpins longer than 9 inches in public they needed a permit.

The New York Times weighed into the debate about women’s hatpins and on Nov 1 1912 in an article titled – Hatpins and Suffrage wrote this:

The evil influence of the warlike women of Great Britain has extended to its antipodean colonies. Dispatches from Sydney, New South Wales, say that sixty militant women of that city have gone to jail rather than pay the moderate fines imposed upon them for wearing murderous weapons in their hats.

Whilst, the idea that women could use hatpins as a deadly weapon may have underpin this legislation and the UK judge’s decision it is clear that for many women, the hatpin was seen as an important defensive weapon against male violence and rape. The cockney song below that I found on the Glitz Queen website is a great example of how the lowly hatpin was seen as an important protection for women walking the streets of London at night and part of the politics of relations between men and women at the time:

My Granny was a very shrewd old lady,
The smartest woman that I ever met.
She used to say, "Now listen to me, Sadie,
There's one thing that you never must forget."

Never go walking out without your hat pin.
The law won't let you carry more than that.
For if you go walking out without your hat pin,

You may lose your head as well as lose your hat."

My Granny said men never could be trusted.
No matter how refined they might appear.
She said that many maidens' hearts got busted
Because men never had but one idea.

I've heard that Grandpa really was a mess,
So Grandma knew whereof she spoke, I guess.

Never go walking out without your hat pin.
Not even to some very classy joints.
For when a fellow sees you've got a hat pin
He's very much more apt to get the point.

My Mama, too, set quite a bad example.
She never heeded Grandmama's advice.
She found that if you give a man a sample,
The sample somehow never does suffice.

In fact, it's rumored I might not have been
If Mum had not gone out without her pin.

Never go walking out without your hat pin.
It's about the best protection you have got.
For if you go walking out without your hat pin,

You may come home without your you-know-what!

So, now I look at the beaded hatpins I intend to make in quite a different way. Not only am I finishing some UFO’s but I am creating a political symbol that celebrates women’s struggles to vote and to be free from violence. What a great source of inspiration for getting on with those UFOs and creating some hatpins that the early feminists would love to wear. I know that means I'll need to create lots of purple and green hatpins (more on why in my next blog).

So with the early feminists in mind here are 9 ways to be creative in current times with a hatpin.

Wear them
1. Be traditional, wear a hatpin in a hat to hold it in place, personalise and/or decorate it.
2. Use shorter hatpins in your lapel as a brooch – wear several for a contemporary statement.
3. Use a hatpin to secure and/or decorate a scarf.
4. Secure a shawl with a hatpin.

Celebrate their symbolism
5. Display hatpins in a special hatpin holder.
6. Use hatpins in a pot plant as a decorative twist
7. Create a hatpin bouquet - collect several and display them in a lovely vase.
8. Pop hatpins at the side of your mirror just to enjoy them and remember their history.
9. Make a women’s rights display with hatpins centre stage.

I'd love to hear about any other ideas you have.



Rose Works Jewelry said...

That was interesting and informative as usual :)

Mary T Designs said...

How fun! And a creative way to put those UFOs to work.

Judy said...

No-one else could link beading to women's issues the way you do Glenda. I like the multiple uses of the hatpins, but may be a problem getting onto a plane!

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

Thanks Judy, somehow it just happened Great to have you as a follower.

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