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Who's got the button?

If you're of my generation, you may remember playing this children's game, using buttons from your mother's sewing supplies--or at least you've heard of it. And just about everyone of any age is familiar with the kind of button used as a closure on clothing; it's been around for centuries.

There's another kind, of course. The political activist or campaign button--variously known as a "pin," which better reflects the way it functions--also has a long history, apparently going back as far as George Washington's time. (1) Political activist buttons were popular in the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s in the U.S., and they're popular in today's social justice movements.

The Office of the Gender & Women's Studies Librarian got its own button-making machine a couple of years ago, and we've been cranking out feminist buttons ever since to give away at conferences and student events. Stop by our booth at NWSA 2016 in Montreal (November 10-13) and pick up a few!

The basic technology for putting buttons together seems not to have changed much in many decades. Our student workers take turns producing them under the direction of office associate Lachrista Greco, who also takes charge of finding rotating supplies of appropriate images to affix to the fronts.

Feminist Art on Buttons

Lachrista Greco coordinates our Artist Visibility Program, which showcases--on our buttons and at events as well as on our website and social media--the work of feminist artists who love libraries. This year's featured artists are actually projects: 4000 Years for Choice, launched by artist Heather Ault in 2009; and The Exquisite Uterus Art of Resistance Project, a collection of works on fabric by more than 200 artists, initiated in 2012 and curated by Helen Klebesadel and Alison Gates. You'll find images representing both projects on buttons at our NWSA booth.

We're always looking for more feminist artists to feature. Want to see your art on a GWS Librarian button? Take a look at our call for artists below and get in touch!

JoAnne Lehman


(1.) See Wikipedia's history of the campaign button.

Are you a feminist artist who loves libraries? Please apply to our Artist Visibility Program! We travel to national GWS and library conferences as well as to other universities and colleges, and wed love to use your rad artwork to help promote our services and resources. In return, we'll give your work visibility at events, on our website, and via our social media, and we'll send you a supply of buttons featuring your art. For more information, email

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Title Annotation:From the Editors
Author:Lehman, JoAnne
Publication:Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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