The Art Of Protest & The Role Of The Pin Badge

Discussion Favourite Finds


Welcome to yet another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'!  How on earth is it Monday again...!?

Anyway, this week I stumbled across a haul of vintage pin badges that I found a while back.  Now, these aren't just your average pin badge.  These pin badges were used as a way to support a cause or a fight, a show of solidarity.  With everything that's going on in the world at present, these little badges struck a chord with me when I found them this week.

We can sometimes feel helpless or powerless, particularly as people who are not in a position to realistically be able to make a direct impact... at least not on our own...  However, as the great late Joe Strummer once said, "without people you're nothing".  If we, the people, stand up collectively, we can demand change and in many cases throughout history, succeed in making that change.  Ultimately, if we stand together, we can defeat whatever life throws at us, because together we are stronger.  This is where something as little as a pin badge can make such a huge statement and this is what this week's blog post is all about.

So, as always, get that kettle on and let's stand together as we look into the art of protest and the role that these little pinned symbols have played throughout history...


 Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE


Badges have been around for far longer than you might realise.  Research suggests that European holy shrines made millions of pewter badges for pilgrims as early as the 12th century and these would be purchased at shops surrounding the shrines.  Whilst there was a belief in the magical properties of these pieces, it was also seen as a way of showing that you were a devoted follower of Christianity. 


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE 


The opinion of the modest badge being the creator of an identity has continued throughout history. For instance, the political badge (like the one's pictured) conveys a belief that “ordinary people” can help make a difference.  They are, after all, accessible, cheap and easily made, and have come to define mass movements.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE


Protest badges can take many forms, and they can be designed in different ways to get across their message.  Examples of badges from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century belonged to trade unions, clubs, societies and they generally identified membership as well as different campaigns.  During the second half of the 20th century, they tended to reflect the large-scale protest movements of the time, particularly around sexual politics, nuclear power and the environment, as well as the war in Vietnam.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE


Whilst the pre-1950 badges tended to represent movements assembled around organisations, badges made after this time represented campaigns instead of groups.  There was a new-found radicalism and a belief in direct action, with public strikes favoured over negotiations and in turn, the language used on these badges shifted towards a much more radical tone.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE 


Certainly, in the case of my haul of protest badges, you can see that some have a very radical tone.  Let's take a closer look and see what events these badges refer to and what they represent.

The "Hanging Is Murder" badge has a pretty clear message.  This badge was made in protest against the United Kingdom's death penalty.  Reports suggest that the last hangings of all in the UK were two carried out simultaneously at 8.00 a.m. on August the 13th, 1964 at Liverpool's Walton prison and Strangeways prison in Manchester, when Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans were executed for the murder of John West.  This ended capital punishment in United Kingdom.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE 


The "Against Conscription" badge again has a pretty clear message and I think, judging by the overall date range of these badges, it likely relates to the Vietnam War, as does the "Action For Peace In Vietnam".  Protests against the Vietnam War took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The protests were part of a movement in opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The majority of the protests were in the United States, but some also took place around the world.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE  


The badges making reference to "Easter" refer to the 'Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament' (CND).  The CND is an organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation.  It opposes military action that may result in the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the building of nuclear power stations in the UK.  Between 1958 and 1965 it organised the Aldermaston march, which was held over the Easter Weekend from the Atomic Weapons Establishment near Aldermaston to Trafalgar Square, London.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE


The "Polaris Must Go" badge relates to opposition against the United Kingdom's Polaris programme, a ballistic missile system and the UK's first submarine-based nuclear weapons system.  This was in service from 1968 to 1996.


Image:  my haul of vintage protest badges - buy HERE


And, finally, the "Ruislip Action 1964" badge relates to a protest against the presence of US nuclear bombers in Ruislip. Women, men, police officers and even their pets could be seen gathering under the sea of banners to scrutinise military policy in the name of peace.



No matter how small a gesture you might think wearing a badge is, it represents solidarity to a cause and can signify safety for a victim or a member of a marginalised group at a moment of vulnerability.  Still today we continue our fights against evil in whatever form it comes in.  There will be times in the future, I'm sure, where evil will rear its ugly head again.  But if we've learnt anything from history, it's that evil never wins and that if we stand together in times of need, we can overcome anything.



You'll be pleased to hear that my collection of vintage protest badges, 13 in total, are currently available to buy HERE

Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope this has helped stir some spirit inside you and persuade you to stand up for what you believe in.  As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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