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Q: Pink -- why feminine? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Pink -- why feminine?
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: nabob-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 03 Aug 2003 22:22 PDT
Expires: 02 Sep 2003 22:22 PDT
Question ID: 238733
How (and when) did the color pink became associated with femininity?
Subject: Re: Pink -- why feminine?
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 04 Aug 2003 02:02 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello there

According to the website "Gender Specific Colors," it would seem that
assigning color to gender is mostly a 20th century trait.   It would
also seem that at one time, the color associations were reversed when
color first came into use as a gender identifier.

In fact, this reversal of what we consider "normal" was considered
conventional, even in the early 20th century.

"At one point pink was considered more of a boy's color, (as a
watered-down red, which is a fierce color) and blue was more for
girls. The associate of pink with bold, dramatic red clearly affected
its use for boys. An American newspaper in 1914 advised mothers, "If
you like the color note on the little one's garments, use pink for the
boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention." [The
Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.]

"There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the
generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The
reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more
suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty,
is prettier for the girl." [Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918] - "Gender Specific

According to Jo B. Paoletti and Carol Kregloh, "The Children's
Department," in Claudia Brush Kidwell and Valerie Steele, ed., Men and
Women:  Dressing the Part, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989).  -
In the United States: "The current pink for girls and blue for boys
wasn't uniform until the 1950's.

It would also seem that Nazi Germany had something to do with the
association of pink with femininity:

"Catholic traditions in Germany and neighboring countries reverse the
current color coding, because of the strong association of blue with
the Virgin Mary...the NAZIs in their concentration camps use a pink
triangle to identify homosexuals. (The yellow star of David is the
best known symbol, used of course to identify Jews. The German system
was quite complicated, using various symbols an colors to identify
criminals, political prisinors, an a whole range of other groups). The
NAZI's choice of pink suggests that it by the 1930s was a color that
in Germany had become associate with girls." - "Gender Specific

Here is another site backing the same color history.

"The preferred color to dress young boys in was pink! Blue was
reserved for girls as it was considered the paler, more dainty of the
two colors, and pink was thought to be the stronger (akin to red). It
was not until WWII that the colors were reversed and pink was used for
girls and blue for boys..." - Quote from Dress Maker Magazine

"Jo B. Paoletti concludes that the effect of color-coded gender
differences (pink for girls, blue for boys) existed oppositely
initially..." - Quote from book review "The Material Culture of
Gender, the Gender of Material Culture" - Winterthur, Del.: Henry
Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1997 - From the Journal of American
History - Please note that this is a cached page as the current page
is different:

While there are also myths and legends supporting both or either color
for gender identification, those resources dealing with straight
history date the identification of pink with femininity to the period
of World War II or later.

Search - google
Terms - color + gender identity, pink +for girls +and blue +for boys -
(note, the + signs are used to the google search will include the

If I may clarify anything before you rate the answer, please ask.


Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 04 Aug 2003 02:04 PDT
correction of error
"note, the + signs are used to the google search will include the
words)" - should read - "the + signs are used 'so' the google search
will include the words)"

Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 04 Aug 2003 12:46 PDT
Hello again

One of our other researchers sent this to me in the hope it might help
your cause somewhat.
The paragraph you are looking for is about the 6th one down:

To quote:
"Battleship gray, navy and military khaki ruled during World War II.
But once the war ended, so did the somber tones that reflected those
serious years of deprivation, and color made a comeback. Having
replaced men in wartime industries, Rosie the Riveter of the '40s
returned to being Susie Homemaker in the '50s. Reflecting the
"pink-is-for-girls-mom-in-the-kitchen-father-knows-best" mentality,
she was admonished to "think pink" – to wear pink lipstick, drive a
pink car, or buy pink household appliances – all of which was
reinforced by an all-pink sequence in the classic Audrey Hepburn
Technicolor film, Funny Face. The quintessential icon of femininity,
Barbie, was born and much of the time, she wore pink." - "Color
Symbolism and Trends"

tlspiegel-ga was the kind lady who found this for you.

nabob-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great answer! Now I need to find out *why* the great color shift
occurred around WWII. Your citations should help get me started on
this question.

Subject: Re: Pink -- why feminine?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 04 Aug 2003 21:40 PDT
The association of pink with femininity was entirely my doing. ;-)
Subject: Re: Pink -- why feminine?
From: ddel-ga on 23 Sep 2004 16:17 PDT
Having read all over the Web the claim that the quotation about pink
being most suitable for boys and blue for girls, I went to great
lengths to obtain and check a copy of the _Ladies Home Journal_ for
June 1918 (the date invariably mentioned) and found no such reference
in it whatsoever. It is possible that someone got the date wrong and
that this has just been repeated in ignorance. However, as an academic
to whom it is important to verify such things I'd like to find out
where the quotation actually comes from (perhaps another month of the
same journal in the same year)... Dr Daniel Chandler, University of
Wales, Aberystwyth
Subject: Re: Pink -- why feminine?
From: clearthinker-ga on 26 Oct 2004 00:17 PDT
Of course, the following suggestion may lie outside of the methodology
of Google research.  But those interested in the answer could ask
grandparents/elderly people who are in their 70s/80s or 90s and ask
them if they recall what the custom was in the earlier half of the
previous century.  This would also help to substantiate the quoted
journal articles.

P.S.  I read an answer by digsalot-ga on getting work exhibited at
art/photo galleries and then clicked on his name to send him an
e-mail.  That opened up his/her previous research items and this was
one of those "Imponderables" type questions that piqued my curiosity.

Anyway, if the reversal described is true, then it is certainly a very
interesting social phenomenon.

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