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Unbuttoning Feminism collection

Identifier: IWA0977

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Scope and Contents

The Unbuttoning Feminism collection dates from 2013-2014 and measures 17 linear inches. The bulk of the collection is the buttons made by students with feminist artwork and messages such as “Live Life Fancy”, “Am I Included?”, “A New World for All”, and “This is What a Feminist Looks Like”. Most of the buttons are displayed in four shadowboxes. The collection also includes social media printouts from the project’s Tumblr and Facebook pages, two feminist manifestas written for the Feminist Rhetorics class, “Taking Back the F-Word,” by Madeline Fitzgerald and “Feminists: Just Like the Rest of Us” by Nolan Peterson, and the article “Who Needs Feminism? Lessons from a Digital World.” A framed plaque explains the origins of the project.


  • Creation: 2013-2014

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

The Unbuttoning Feminism project grew out of a Feminist Rhetorics class taught by Professor Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz at the University of Iowa in the spring of 2013, and was inspired in part by the article "Who Needs Feminism? Lessons from a Digital World" by Rachel F. Seidman. The goal of Unbuttoning Feminism was to create a safe space for dialogue concerning some of society’s most important issues. To do this, student co-founders Paige Pennigar and Madeline Fitzgerald created a Facebook page and Tumblr account and held button-making workshops at the Women’s Resource and Action Center on the University of Iowa campus, encouraging Hawkeyes and the broader Iowa City community to stop by and make buttons inspired by personal attitudes about feminist issues.

They wanted to see how others defined feminism and create a visual expression of the infinite facets of the feminist movement. In the first two weeks of the campaign, over 200 unique buttons were created, each representing someone’s story. Pennigar and Fitzgerald hoped that by displaying the collection of buttons to the public, the messages would encourage conversation about feminism and feminist issues, “unbuttoning” negative connotations that hinder feminist ideologies today. The buttons were displayed on campus and around town.


17.00 linear inches

Language of Materials



Feminist buttons and examples of feminist rhetorics.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection (donor no. 1357) was donated by Madeline Fitzgerald in 2014.

Unbuttoning Feminism collection
Carla DeWit
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)