An Embroidered ‘I Voted' Pin: How the Suffragists Inspired a Historical Costumer to Revamp the Election Sticker

‘Voting, I think, is an act of striving. It's almost an act of optimism. It's the best way that we have to say, I believe that we can be better.’

This year, NBCLX decided to scrap the classic "I Voted" sticker that you get at the polls every election and try something new. So we’ve asked artists from across the U.S. to reimagine the “I Voted” sticker for 2020. The latest artist to take us up on our challenge is Caitlin, a historical costumer from Upstate New York.  

Caitlin embroidered her version of an “I Voted” sticker to pay tribute to the women who fought for their right to vote in the early 20th century. She explains to NBCLX’s Jeremy Berg why she was inspired by the suffragists and why she considers voting to be “an act of striving.” 

You can find Caitlin on Instagram at @thevictorianarchivist. And to find a digital version of Caitlin’s embroidered pin – and our entire collection of artist-created "I Voted" stickers – search "LXtion2020" on Giphy. Share them on your social platforms to tell the world you voted!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.  

Caitlin: So my name is Caitlin and I live in Upstate New York and for the most part, I am a historical costumer. So, I recreate costumes from different historic periods. My “I Voted” sticker is an embroidered badge that I made out of linen and cotton embroidery floss. 

Berg: What was your approach when this project came to you? What did you want to accomplish?

Caitlin: So when I first heard about this project, the first thing that popped into my head was trying to blend the very modern concept of “I Voted” stickers with something very old fashioned – or what we think of as old fashioned – which is embroidery. I love meshing old fashioned things into our modern world… So that's why I decided to embroider my “I Voted” sticker. And I also wanted to use colors that we commonly associate with the suffragists who were using their colors to promote their cause before the 19th Amendment was passed. 

More from NBCLX

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Berg: And can you talk a little bit more about that history? The suffragists - why is that important to you?

Caitlin: So the suffragists ... wanted to brand themselves so that they had a unified cause and unified message. So the British suffragists chose the colors green, purple and white: green for hope, white for purity and purple for, in their case, royalty. And then the American suffragists wanted to brand themselves as well. So they took inspiration for that. And the American color for hope was actually gold instead of green. But I stuck with green because I like green as the symbol of hope. 

And they had to endure so much... they were marching, they were filing petitions – some of them also got violent at times to just get their message across and to make it known that they weren't going away. They wanted to be heard. They wanted to be involved in the democratic process. And so it's today more important than ever that we involve ourselves in the democratic process – that we don't just stand back and say, well, my vote isn't going to matter, so I'm not going to bother. 

So that was one of the reasons I wanted to tie in the history of how much women fought for this vote and bring that with the colors and with the embroidery... into this very modern concept of just a little sticker that we get at the polls that says "I Voted" so that we can let people know this is something you need to be involved in. This is something I went and did. And you should, too. 

Berg: Talk to me about the process.

Caitlin: So I started by sketching my idea … so that I would have something to refer back to and something to trace off of when I transferred my design to the linen embroidery fabric. So then once I had my idea sketched out, I traced it onto my linen and then I just started stitching and it took me a couple tries… I had to do it a couple times to get it right...I think it took me probably six or seven hours total.

Embroidering an 'I Voted' Pin

Berg: Voting. Why is it important to you? And why do you want to encourage people to do it? 

Caitlin: So voting is - some would say, unfortunately - one of the few ways that we have a voice in our government - in what's going on in the world, in the way that our tax dollars are being used... Voting, I think, is an act of striving. It's almost an act of optimism. It's the best way that we have to say, I believe that we can be better. I believe this community, I believe this country can be better and can be the way that I think it can be, the way that I hope it can be … It's your best voice. It's your best way to go out there and show some optimism and say, I believe this country can be what I want it to be.