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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Cassatt’s Woman Sewing’

Pin money.

I have never heard a man use this term I have known for as long as I can remember. It has always been the women who have said it.

Women of my family, working around the kitchen table, kneading dough for kourambedes, brushing butter on paper-thin sheets of phyllo, working grape leaves around ground meat, casually mentioning that Patty was taking in laundry for some extra pin money.

Ma, slipping a few dollars to her friend Laura for coming over on her day off to give us a perm, saying it was pin money.

My Aunt Christina said it to me the first time I baby sat as I walked past her kitchen window with 50 cents held like Midas’ gold in the palm of my hand. “Now you have some pin money, Penny” as she smiled down at me.

“Penny, put this away for something special. It’s your pin money” said my Aunt Babe after my first week of stocking shelves for Burney Brothers Bakery at a grocery store in the City.

I mentioned it the other day as I thought out loud about ways to make some extra money and was asked what pin money was. Pin money, to me, has always meant small change or a few dollars, squirreled away here and there for something extra. At 50¢ an hour, it netted me the $3 I needed to buy a mohair sweater, spun in sunshine yellow, from the Ben Franklin Five and Dime when I was twelve years old. Quarters stashed away in a little tin can allowed me to purchase a leather-bound book held together by a strong, gold cord. “A Treasure Chest” is filled with wonderful quotes. It followed me to college and marriage and children and sits on a shelf. It was a book recommended to me my high school creative writing teacher. The chord remains taut. I still have a change purse where coins are tossed and eventually go toward something special; a book, a present, a new scarf.

Pin money, it seems, claims many origins, most of them about the purchase of pins. One source calls it “a small allowance to buy clothes”, another for  the purchase of pins, which were once an extravagant expense. Pins were, and still are, used for dressmaking, though they were paid for dearly in the past. Centuries ago, men would leave “pynne money” to wives or daughters in their wills. Nineteenth and twentieth century women were given an allowance, pin money, for expenses and, perhaps if one was frugal, a pair of silk stockings.

Pin money.

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