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“Our Bugler Girl carries her bugle and her banner; her sword is sheathed by her side; it is there, but not drawn, and if it were drawn, it would not be the sword of the flesh, but of the spirit. For ours is not a warfare against men, but against evil; a war in which women and men fight together.”[1]

Bugler Girl Button

Campaign Pin, 1910-1920. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Rebecca Schenck Clark, N0319.1950 (06). Photograph by Melissa Nunez.

 

This pin, dated between 1914-1917, is a small object packed with symbolic meaning for the suffrage movement in the twentieth century.  It tells the story of the militant side of the movement through imagery and color, and would have marked the wearer as a radical suffragette. Mass produced by the Ehrmann Manufacturing Company in Boston, Massachusetts[2], the pin features the image of the Bugler Girl, an armor clad woman, sword hanging from her belt, and a bugle pressed to her mouth to trumpet the call for women’s equality and voting rights.

The Bugler Girl was adopted as a symbol of suffrage by those who were looking for an assertive, active model for women in the movement. The Bugler Girl was the antithesis of the domestic woman. Far from the passive role women were confined to, the Bugler Girl was ready for battle, disrupting the status quo with her trumpet blasts calling for change. Though her image is war-like, the above quote demonstrates that violent protest and a war against men is not what the movement called for. Rather, the sword represented the commitment to the struggle, and the recognition that women would not be passive actors in the movement.

In the U.S., the Women’s Political Union was known for its militant ideals and strategies. Founded in 1907 as the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, the organization had strong ties with working class women, and with its predecessor and English counterpart, the Women’s Social and Political Union.[3] Known for its aggressive tactics and protests, the English organization became a model for the WPU in America. Eventually, not only the organization’s name, but its colors were adopted. Unlike other U.S. suffrage organizations that used a white, purple and yellow color scheme, the WPU used white, purple and green to differentiate itself and align itself with the ideals and tactics of its English predecessor. Yet, the colors still showed solidarity with the suffrage movement overall.

The Bugler Girl pin boasts these colors in conjunction with the image of a woman at war, calling out for “Votes for Women.” As a mass produced, wearable object, this pin, with its color scheme and imagery, would have marked its wearer as a radical, active, and militant suffragette, with ideals that matched those of the WPU and a desire to carry on the rallying cry of the Bugler Girl.

By Melissa Nunez

 

[1] Crawford, Elizabeth. “The Bugler Girl”. womanandhersphere.com. https://womanandhersphere.com/tag/the-bugler-girl/. 2011.

[2]   Florey, Kenneth. Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia. 1st ed. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2013. 128

[3] Trueman, C.N. “Women’s Social and Political Union”. History Learning Site. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-role-of-british-women-in-the-twentieth-century/womens-social-and-political-union/. 2016

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