Women in World War I Pins & Buttons

Much like the use of military insignia to identify its wearer by association with an organization and his/her achievements, the pins and buttons in this section were meant to be worn by Americans on the home front during World War I to show their membership in an organization and/or their contribution to a particular war effort, such as the United War Work Campaign. The pins and buttons displayed the wearer's patriotism and generosity and undoubtedly also served to prompt others to become involved in the various war efforts.  Women were heavily involved in the organizations and war efforts with which these objects are associated.

The pins and buttons showcased in this section are from the Division of Medicine and Science’s collection of celluloid objects, donated by two enthusiastic celluloid collectors. Celluloid is a thin, highly flammable plastic first created in 1856 by Alexander Parkes, although not patented as "celluloid" until 1869 under the auspices of inventor John Wesley Hyatt. It was widely used as film for movies and photography up through the 1950s. Celluloid was an excellent material for making jewelry, particularly because it was much cheaper to manufacture and could imitate finer materials like ivory. Other items once made with celluloid include—but are by no means limited to—postcards, game pieces, knitting needles, toys, and matchbox covers, two of which are also included in this section. Today celluloid is still used in the production of ping pong balls and guitar picks.


Further Resources

"One word: plastics," O Say Can You See? Stories from the National Museum of American History (blog), July 22, 2011.

The Plastics Collection, Syracuse University Libraries.