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Identifying Voters: The Persuasive Force of Campaign Memorabilia

Trading Pink for Policy

Until relatively recently women were not seen or treated as a major political force. Although women have held powerful offices since earning the right to vote, two states elected female governors in 1925 including Miriam Ferguson of Texas. Major events such as the Great Depression and World War II, initially promising expanded opportunities, ended with women returning to the home. The 1960s saw a shift in campaigning, as women began to participate more in politics. However, this participation was mostly limited to social programming. In order to mobilize the female voter, politicians often made appeals to stereotypical feminine tropes, such as the desire to gain social standing and create an outward display of perfection through being the best homemaker, being the ideal hostess, and wearing the trendiest fashion. As a whole, memorabilia targeting women also looked visually different from memorabilia targeting men because it was made of pink paper with cartoon images. Oftentimes, policy positions were left behind in favor of colorful aesthetics and showcasing traditional family values used to target women. Furthermore, when mobilization was focused on women, it was designed to be shared in an effort to spread the politicians’ message from one woman to the next, capitalizing on social networks as opposed to appealing to the women themselves. This case displays the evolution of women in the political world by means of memorabilia targeting female voters. Today, candidates no longer forgo policy in favor of tea parties and social hours when appealing to women. Instead, women are beginning to be seen as an important voting demographic and autonomous beings.

Credit: Hannah Young, Alex Moore, Maya Clausen, Breely Peterson, Sarah Bowen, & Anna Franklin

Item Title: Paper Dress - Nixon
Candidate/Campaign: Richard Nixon, 1968 Presidential Campaign
Date: undated
Collection: Campaign & Political Memorabilia Collection

This dress was manufactured by Mars of Asheville, North Carolina for Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign in which he beat Hubert Humphrey. The dress was sold with a matching blazer and a label warning that it becomes flammable after washing due to the removal of flame retardant chemicals. This item capitalized off of the popularity of paper clothes in the mid-sixties, which were considered fashionable because of their temporary nature- they couldn’t be worn for long, so they never went out of style! “Paper” clothes were actually made of a non-woven material, often a mixture of pulp and rayon mesh.

Item Title: America Wants Pat-Brochure
Candidate/Campaign: Richard Nixon, 1960 Presidential Campaign
Date: circa 1960
Collection: Senator John Tower Collection

This brochure is part of Pat Nixon’s ‘first lady campaign,’ the first of its kind in the United States. It was used to enhance Richard Nixon’s image and bolster his presidential campaign. The information within was intended to depict Pat as a hard working wife and homemaker, and persuade the American public that the Nixon family embodied traditional family values that would serve the United States well. Additionally, this strategic promotion of Pat was intended to appeal to women by exemplifying a female role in politics and to encourage voting while still maintaining a traditional feminine image during this time period.

Item Title: Ralph Yarborough Campaign Cookbook: Recipes to Serve a Campaign Crowd or Crew
Candidate/Campaign: Ralph Yarborough, U.S. Senate, 1970-1972
Date: 1972
Collection: Bertha McKee Dobie Papers

Ralph Yarborough represented Texas for fourteen years in the U.S. Senate and loved to entertain and tell jokes. He created this cookbook in the early seventies to bring people together and create a sense of community centered around his campaign. His cookbook focused on mobilizing women and minority groups to support his campaign by including trendy ethnic recipes that were desired by mothers and minority groups. Yarborough became a symbol of the Democrats of Texas because of his resilient campaigning and dedication to his coalition of small farmers, factory laborers, teachers, and people of color.