Craft and Protest: Collecting the Women's March

by Jane Groufsky and Nina Finigan

On Saturday 21 January 2017, over 1000 Aucklanders came together to march in support of the Women’s March on Washington, forming part of a global protest that drew in millions. Although the Washington DC protest was intended as a response to Trump’s inauguration the day before, marches were organised in 82 countries across the globe to demonstrate widespread dissatisfaction at his appointment, and to call attention to human rights issues.

Auckland Museum took the opportunity to collect objects from the march, and we weren’t alone in this action – museums, libraries and archives all over the world put out calls for material. Like us, they recognised the importance of this event in both global and local contexts.

We put out a message on the Auckland Museum Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages, asking for March attendees to get in touch. Social media is the perfect tool to communicate with a broad and diverse audience very quickly. Protest material is fragile – it is often home-spun, made urgently with cheap materials and not intended to last.

There is an immediacy to this material, made in a flurry of activity, of anger, of frustration, of desperation, of solidarity, and of collective awareness. It is meant to shine brightly and loudly for a brief moment, and then disappear forever.


Image (right): I march for..., Nuoya Huang, 2017. Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, EPH-2017-5-1.

Women's March attendees gathering at Myers Park, Auckland, 21 January 2017. Photograph by Jane Groufsky, CC-BY-NC.

Although protestors gathered that day around a single kaupapa, each person brought their own perspectives and lived experiences with them. These diverse perspectives materialised in the signs, posters and banners they carried with them – displaying messages of anger, solidarity, bewilderment and hope.

With that in mind, an important part of this collection activity was to ensure many different voices were collected to show that protest, and that even when it seems to be about one thing, it is not homogenous.

A perspective which can be left out of this conversation is youth. In reality, however, youth are very much a part of this conversation, particularly in the context of ‘digital feminism,’ with digital media playing a central role in 4th wave feminist activity, activism and discourse.

We wanted to make sure our collection included this perspective so when 14 year old Nyoya Huang contacted us wanting to donate her two posters, we were thrilled.

When asked why she attended the March, Nyoya said,

“I attended the Woman's March in Auckland along with a friend to fight for what we believe in – equality…I know I am quite young but that doesn't stop me from understanding what's wrong and what's right.”

Nyoya crowdsourced the messages on her posters – first drawing a big, sparkly female sign in the middle of each and then asking people in the crowd to write around it what they were marching for, meaning that we have many different perspectives clustered on these two posters.


Image (right): I march for..., Nuoya Huang, 2017. Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, EPH-2017-5-2.

Pussy Hat, Susan Elliott, 2017. Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2017.23.1.

In addition to carrying banners, posters and wearing March-branded t-shirts, several women wore pink knitted “pussy hats”. The Pussyhat Project was initiated by two American women, with the stated aim to

“Provide the people of the Women’s March on Washington D.C. a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists be better heard”.

The hats were achievable for any level of knitter – a simple rectangle, joined at the sides - and were also intended as a practical way of keeping warm on the day of the protest. Corners form peaks that resemble cat ears when worn: a direct reference to Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” quote.

The donor/knitter of the hat we collected, Sue Elliott, was one of over a thousand women, men and children who marched from the U.S. Consulate to Myers Park, where Jacinda Ardern, Alison Mau, Tracey Barnett, Dr Pani Farvid, and Lizzie Marvelly spoke to the crowd. On her reasons for joining, Sue said:

“I marched, of course; because who wouldn't. Being a young woman in the 1970s we were constantly trying to claim our rights and the thought that these could be eroded at a whim is shocking”.

She knitted a hat for herself and one for a friend, and even took more knitting to work on while listening to the speakers.

The Pussyhat Project fulfilled its goal of widespread recognition, but reception has been divided. Because of sheer scale of the marches, criticism has been leveled that the sense of “togetherness” came at the expense of the marginalised.

To some, the pussy hat has become a symbol of tokenistic mainstream feminism, which typically focuses on the needs of white, cisgender women, and does not address the communities who are most at risk. To others, the hats were a way of celebrating a craft often brushed off as “women’s work”, and spoke of the time and effort invested in the march before it had begun.


Image (right): Sue Elliott wearing her Pussy Hat and knitting while watching speakers at the Women's March, 21 January 2017. Photograph by Theresa Peter, All Rights Reserved.

Women's March banner, Rachel Manning, 2017. Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2017.29.1 CC-BY-NC.

This banner was created by Aucklander Rachel Manning, using a sheet they bought from a Dominion Road op-shop, fabric paint, and sequins from Geoff's Emporium. In using the pink colour and heart motif, Manning 

"...wanted to unite all of these groups of women in the spirit of intersectional feminism. I wanted to give special love to these groups of women, who have been neglected by previous, flawed modes”.


Our job is to document and record significant events for the benefit of future generations. The small collection that we have amassed from the march adds to our Museum’s record of protest in Auckland; it contributes to a collective memory of resistance in our city; and it helps document an event in which Aucklanders mobilised and went out on the streets to have their voices heard.




2017 Women's March - Wikipedia link

Related objects

Women's March banner

Knitted hat




Cite this article 

Groufsky, Jane and Finigan, Nina. 'Craft and Protest: Collecting the Women's March', Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Published: 17 09 2018.