Letters

I Knit Pussy Hats

Trump year 1

What have you done in the last year to respond to the upheavals in American politics?  This is an installment in a series of short essays that reflect on the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

When I saw this call for submissions on Claire Potter’s Facebook profile, I knew that since my nom de blog is Knitting Clio, I must write about knitting! Both my mother and grandmother knit and crochet, so I learned the craft at an early age. It got me through the long winters in Vermont, especially the one when I broke my foot in 4th grade.

When I was in graduate school, we female students were advised not to knit or do any other needlework in meetings if we wanted to be taken seriously. So, I set knitting aside as I worked on my dissertation and then went on to my job in the history department at Central Connecticut State University.

It wasn’t until the “renaissance” of knitting in the late 1990s and early 2000s that I took it up my needles again. I was inspired by the work of Debbie Stoller, co-founder, co-owner and editor-in-chief of the feminist culture magazineBust. In 1992, she and co-editor Marcell Karp decided to start their own publication modeled after the “out-spoken sensibility” and DIY ethic of the Riot Grrl movement. In addition to commentaries on progressive politics and pop culture, the magazine had instructions for knitting, crochet, needlepoint, and other DIY craft projects. Eventually Stoller compiled her patterns into Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook and other books.

I’m happy to say that knitting in public is no longer shameful. There’s even a worldwide knit in public day! (the next one is June 9, 2018). Many women (and men) now knit at history conferences. For some reason, we are especially numerous at the American Association for the History of Medicine meetings.

After last year’s Presidential election, a group of women artists created the Pussy Hat Project, in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington. Their aims are:

“1. Provide the people of the Women’s March on Washington a means to make a unique collective visual statement (a sea of pink hats) which will help activists be better heard and
2. Provide people who cannot physically march on the National Mall a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights by creating and gifting pussyhats.”

The organizers chose the word “pussy” — a derogatory term for female genitalia – as a way of reclaiming the word and using it as a means of female empowerment.

The Pussy Hat project founders hope that in the process of making pussyhats, participants “would be connecting with each other and laying the groundwork for future political activism.”

I was thrilled with the idea and immediately got ahold of the pussy hat pattern and started knitting. Here are some hats I made for friends going to the Women’s March in Washington, DC.

My feline assistant Regine “inspects” a completed hat.

Of course, I made one for myself and even got my husband to wear one. Here we are at the Women’s March in Hartford, Connecticut. [Note the absence of snow in New England in January. Further proof that climate change is real]

For me, knitting pussy hats has been a great outlet for my pent-up frustration over the past year. It sooths my soul and unites me with other stitching activists. We march on and we keep on knitting.

Heather Munro Prescott is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.

Also for you:

Heather Prescott

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