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A global women’s movement, created almost overnight. Millions of women, men and children at over 600 rallies in countries touching virtually every continent. Young and old, rich and poor. Educated and not, religious and secular. Straight and LGBTQ, every race and color. All wearing hand-made, knitted caps on a single day, awash in a sea of pink, arm-in-arm in solidarity for women’s rights and in protest against the rhetoric used toward women and minorities in the previous year’s state and federal elections.
And it all started with two sticks and a ball of yarn.
In late 2016, artist and design architect Jayna Zweiman was rehabbing from a serious injury. Unable to work or engage in strenuous physical activity, Jayna wanted to find a low-impact hobby she could do while sitting and recuperating. She roped in Krista Suh, a screenwriter, to take a crochet classe at the Little Knittery, a local yarn store near her home in Los Angeles. The two were hooked.
During many lengthy conversations in knitting circles, the two women found common ground in their passion for women’s rights and the inspiration they found in the pro-women’s rights language of the pending Women’s Marches.
Krista was planning to attend the Women’s March in Washington DC that January of 2017, and needed a cap to keep her head warm in the chill winter air. Jayna, due to her injury, would not be able to attend any of the marches, but wanted to find a way to have her voice heard in absentia. Together, they conceived the idea of creating a sea of pink hats at Women’s Marches everywhere that would make both a bold and powerful visual statement of solidarity, and also allow people who could not participate themselves – whether for medical, financial, or scheduling reasons — a visible way to demonstrate their support for women’s rights.
Little Knittery owner Kat Coyle designed a simple and brilliant pattern that would allow people of all knitting levels to be part of the project. The name Pussyhat™ was chosen in part as a protest against vulgar comments Donald Trump made about the freedom he felt to grab women’s genitals, to de-stigmatize the word “pussy” and transform it into one of empowerment, and to highlight the design of the hat’s ’pussycat ears’. Leveraging social media and the close-knit nature of the global knitting community, word was spread and the fuse was lit.
A Pussyhat now resides in the Rapid Response collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the permanent collection of Michigan State University’s museum, and other collections as an important piece of feminist history. What started as a simple means of protest, participation and solidarity, has become an iconic global symbol of political activism.