Women’s Presidential Campaign Buttons: A Snapshot from History

Campaign buttons have been a staple of American politics for almost 200 years. And I unabashedly love them.

Pins and postcards were the social media of their time. Before Facebook, before Twitter, before any of the other seemingly countless social media platforms candidates are on in today’s 24/7 news cycle, campaign buttons were the primary tools used to show support, spread the word, and encourage people to get to the polls. I suppose they still are used for those purposes but, in today’s Instagram world, “pics or it didn’t happen.”

Well, I collect women’s campaign buttons, and I have the pictures to prove it!
Boston Globe/Barry Chin/Globe Staff

My favorite buttons are from women’s presidential campaigns (No, 2008 was not the first time a woman has run for President). Women have been running for the Oval Office for more than 140 years, since Victoria Woodhull’s bid in 1872. My pins celebrate women who’ve helped pave the way for a woman in the White House.

1964

Margaret Chase Smith

Senator Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party convention. Smith’s campaign motto: “There is nothing more effective than a handshake and a little conversation.”

1972

Shirley Chisholm

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to seek a major party’s nomination for the presidency. In her announcement speech, Chisholm said, “I stand before you today, to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for qualified candidates, simply because he is not white or because she is not a male.”

1988

Pat Schroeder

Congresswoman Pat Schroeder’s campaign highlighted one of the challenges women can face when running for executive office. “If one more person said to me, ‘I like everything about you but you don’t look presidential,’ I was going to scream,” said Schroeder on a press call last August. “Because, clearly there had been no presidents that had looked like me.”

2000

Elizabeth Dole

Senator Elizabeth Dole is often described by the press as the first viable female presidential candidate. Prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, she served as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Secretary of Labor, and head of the American Red Cross. Her campaign motto: “Let’s make history.”

2004

Carol Mosely Braun

Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, in her presidential campaign announcement, said, “It’s time to take the “Men Only” sign off the White House door.” In addition to serving as the U.S. Ambassador to two countries, Moseley Braun was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

For me, my collection of campaign buttons for women candidates represents thousands of small but mighty pin pricks in the ultimate glass ceiling (and provide a positive contrast to sexist political buttons used to demean women). As someone who has dedicated my life’s work to electing more women to public office, I delight every day in seeing my collection of campaign buttons on the wall across from my desk. They are a reminder of how far we’ve come — and how far we have left to go.

I know what button I’ll be wearing from now until November. The name says it all: