Artifact and Analysis

Document 1
Letters from the Donor

My favorite jeans will be three years old this spring. They are thin and worn; patched with remnants of clothes I've made. . . .

I bought my jeans on sale at Steinbach's for $4.50 when I was a 7th grader at the Clayton Middle School. Although I wore them everywhere else I went, I was not allowed to wear them to school, due to an archaic dress code enforced by the school authorities, forbidding any kind of pants.

The next fall I wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union for legal aid in defending my right to free expression in wearing pants to school. . . . The important conflict was not related to sex discrimination; it was a matter of personal freedom for those whose taste in clothing does not conform with that of the administration. . .

I wore them when I went to see Janis Joplin in concert at the Garden State Arts Center. . . . The first time I ever went canoeing, I wore them.

They were especially comfortable with sandals and a poncho, but I often wore them with sneakers and a T-shirt. Of course they became very beat-up looking, but I couldn't bear to throw them away.

Excerpts of letters from the donor, Brigid McMenamin, to a museum curator, offering her jeans to the Smithsonian in 1973