There are few symbols that genuinely speak to people all over the world. One of the most recognisable is the pink ribbon. The pink ribbon has become an international symbol of the battle against breast cancer as well as awareness and ultimately, the female resilience. But, the ribbon was not always the bright pink we see today, it actually started as peach. In 1991, Charlotte Haley, a resident of California, began making ribbons by hand in her dining room to raise awareness of the disease.
As a breast cancer survivor herself, the cause was close to her heart and she was determined to be heard - by any means necessary. To each packet of five ribbons she attached a postcard that read: “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Charlotte wanted America, and the world to start paying attention and take accountability. She also began handing the cards out at the local supermarket and writing to prominent women, including former first ladies.
Over time, Charlotte’s peach ribbon has become phased out due to the introduction of the pink ribbon by Self Magazine and Estee Lauder, who approached her with an aim to collaborate. Charlotte dismissed the notion of working with the company as she found the concept “too commercial.” She refused to deter away from her goals. Charlotte went on to live a long life before passing away in 2014 at the age of 91.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a time to acknowledge the strength of those who are affected by the disease and honour those who fight against it. So, next time you pin on your ribbon, stop and take a moment to honour Charlotte Haley, the woman who started it all.