Pink Ribbon Awareness

The pink ribbon for breast cancer research is probably one of the most internationally recognized symbols of our time. But how did it come to be, and what exactly has this symbol come to represent?

First, a little background on the ribbon itself: In 1979, Penney Laingen, the wife of an American hostage in Iran, tied yellow ribbons around trees in her front yard as a sign of hope and faith in her husbands safe return.  She got the idea from the lyrics of, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree.” a song originally used as a marching tune by the US military.  

From this, the yellow ribbon has become a symbol of the American people’s support for US troops serving abroad.  Eleven years later an activist group for AIDS awareness decided to use a bright, red ribbon as its symbol. The group gained recognition by pinning the ribbon to actor, Jeremy Irons, during the Tony Awards.  From these two events the general use of ribbons as a symbolic message was popularized so much, that by 1992 the New York Times declared it “The Year of the Ribbon.”

It was about the same time that the breast cancer awareness ribbon came to be.  The pink ribbon, started out as a peach ribbon in Charlotte Haley’s kitchen.  Haley was a 68-year-old daughter, sister and grandmother of breast cancer victims.  In the 1990’s she took it upon herself to distribute thousands of peach ribbons, that she made in her home, with a card that read, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention.  Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”  At the same time, Alexandra Penney, editor and chief of Self-magazine, was working on the magazines second annual Breast Cancer Awareness issue.  Her plan was to create a ribbon and with the help of Evelyn Lauder, breast cancer survivor and senior corporate vice president of Estee Lauder cosmetics, distribute them through cosmetic counters all around the country.  The only problem was Charlotte Haley was not so willing to share her peach ribbon.  So Self-magazine and Estee Lauder cosmetics came up with a new ribbon, a pink ribbon.  In the fall of 1992 1.5 million pink ribbons had been handed out at cosmetic counters around the country.  Today there are about 80 to 100 major companies involved in the pink ribbon campaign; making the pink ribbon an international symbol for breast cancer awareness.

But is the pink ribbon as innocent as it seems?  Sometimes, No.  Organizations, like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, collect millions in donations and proceeds from pink ribbon sales, and then turn around to use that money to fund other initiatives, such as Planned Parenthood; but they, like everyone else, have lost out on patenting the pink ribbon.  The pink ribbon itself stands alone as purely a tribute to breast cancer survivors.  So, while organizations may choose to use profits from the pink ribbon to suite their own personal agendas, it is strictly of their own accord.  There are plenty of other organizations who use the pink ribbon for what it is, a positive symbol for breast cancer victims.  Consumers should be aware of individual companies and organizations affiliations before making donations, but should not fear the symbolic message behind the pink ribbon. 

While The Catholic Company applauds the Susan G. Komen Foundation for their efforts in fighting breast cancer, we encourage them to strictly use those funds for greater breast cancer research and awareness.  The Catholic Company does not support the Susan G. Komen Foundation, any of its affiliates, or other outside groups/organizations that use their funds inappropriately. 

The Catholic Company is very selective regarding the vendors we choose to supply the pink ribbon products we have to offer you.  Our vendors assure us that none of the proceeds from the sale of their pink ribbon products are sent to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

  I feel very blessed to be able to provide such a wonderful spiritual item to those in the midst of their fight for survival while at the same time providing funds to those scientists involved in finding cures.  We have come a long way in our fight against this deadly disease.  I pray that with God's help, we will eventually conquer cancer completely.”

 Sandy P. – Spiritually Yours

 “The pink ribbon specifically has been used as encouragement for the many women who are battling breast cancer. In support of these women, their families and loved ones, and the medical personnel who are helping them fight this disease, our pink ribbon product is a reminder of where true Hope comes from. A portion of the proceeds from sales of these products go towards breast cancer awareness and prevention in order to help reduce the number of people effected by this devastating disease.”

 Michele C. – Bob Siemons Designs