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History of PInk October

Posted 9/12/2013

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  It's coming; October is closer by the day. I am reminded of that old song: They're coming to take you away, aha, aha...". God knows they are trying. From community newspapers (at least mine) that are printed on pink paper to the sale of pink toilet paper to the NFL wearing pink shoes, the color is everywhere. If you don't know the history of this movement, you owe it to yourself to learn.

  Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco has led the campaign to tell the truth about Pink October. There is a great deal of information on their website (, but if you only want to read the history, here is the start and then a link. I do encourage you to go directly to them and learn more.

History of the Pink Ribbon
Pretty in Pink
By Sandy M. Fernandez

From the beginning, the pink ribbon connoting breast cancer awareness has been embroiled in controversy. Today, some members of the movement wear it proudly, giving thanks for both the symbol and its attendant charity-dollar largesse. Others hate it with a passion. But to much of the media and the world at large, the ribbon is the breast cancer movement. Where did the ribbon come from, where is it going, and what has it meant along the way?

The merging of the ribbon and symbolism in this country came about in two huge leaps. The first occurred in 1979, the year that Penney Laingen, wife of a hostage who’d been taken in Iran, was inspired by song to tie yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard. The ribbon, Americans were told on the nightly news, signaled her desire to see her husband home again. For the first time, ribbon became medium, ribbon became message. Yellow ribbons sprouted up across the country in solidarity. That was step one.

Step two occurred 11 years later, when AIDS activists looked at the yellow ribbons that had been resurrected for soldiers fighting the Gulf War and said, “What about something for our boys dying here at home?” The activist art group Visual AIDS turned the ribbon bright red—“because it’s the color of passion”—looped it, spruced it up and sent it onto the national stage during the Tony awards, photogenically pinned to the chest of actor Jeremy Irons.

Ribbons had arrived. Overnight, every charitable cause had to have one. After just a short time, they were so ubiquitous that The New York Times declared 1992 “The Year of the Ribbon.”

The stage was set for the evolution of the breast cancer ribbon.


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