Pink Ribbon History

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The pink ribbon has become a wellknown symbol for breast cancer awareness and support. But how did ribbons become silent declarations of support?
Why pink?
Here’s the scoop.

Ribbons as Symbols

Ribbons first became a tool to bring awareness and support to a cause in 1979 -when the wife of one of the prisoners of the Iran hostage crisis, Penny Laingen, decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband and the other hostages.

A decade later, Visual AIDS-an AIDS awareneliS and support group-employed a red ribbon on a national stage during the Tony Awards. Since then, many organizations have claimed their own unique ribbon color to signify suppon and awareness for their cause.

A Peachy Past

The ribbon for breast cancer awareness got its start as peach colored, aa:ording to Pink Ribbon Internationalan initiative for breast cancer awareness and funding.

Charlotte Hayley, a breast cancer patient, introduced the peach ribbon by attaching it to cards saying, The National Cancer lnstitute’s annual budget is 1.8 billion U.S. dollars, and onlyS percent goes to cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislatocs and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Haley distributed thousands o f these ca rds, and her message spread by word of mouth, but her effor ts were strictly grassroots.

The Making of an Icon

The pink ribbon truly became established in 1991, after the cosmetics industry endorsed the symbol. This is also how the ribbon took on the pink hue it is known for today. The editor-in-chief of Self Magazine, who was working on a breast cancer awareness issue with Estee Lauder Cosmetics, sought to incorporate Haley’s ribbon, but Haley rejected the collaboration — stating that the magazine’s intent was “too commercial.”

Unable to use the original peach ribbon for legal reasons, the magazine changed the color to pink — and the rest is history.