The Button Lady

The stuffed elephant hat gets your attention, but it’s the dozens of campaign buttons that pinpoint Jeanne Matatall as a true-blue Republican. President Nixon–Now More Than Ever… Vote Volpe for Victory… Richardson Cares About People…

Matatall, 62, started voting Republican around 1960 and has been collecting Republican memorabilia ever since. She estimates she has 600 candidate buttons and elephant-shaped pins, each individually wrapped and stored in the basement of her Kingston home.

A regular delegate to state and national party conventions, she pulls out a large red vest every couple of years and covers it with collectibles. Her only rule: She won’t wear anything she doesn’t own at least two of. (She’s afraid she’ll lose one.)

Matatall buys most of the buttons at flea markets and yard sales, but sometimes people just give them to her. At this year’s Republican state convention, she picked up a Reagan button written in Hebrew. CommonWealth sat down with Matatall at the Worcester Centrum and posed a few questions.

Q: How did you become a Republican?

A: In an Irish Catholic Democratic family, it took courage…. I didn’t like the things the Democrats were doing. Plus the fact I married a Republican. He’s very intelligent and he pointed things out to me…. It was a slow transition but a permanent one.

Q: What is your favorite button?

A: I love my Reagan-Bush [51st Inaugural. Jan. 21, 1985.]. I love anything that has to do with Reagan-Bush. I love those two men.

Q: What is your oldest button?

A: I got some back to Hoover…. I have Goldwater, too [A Choice for a Change. Goldwater. Miller.]. He should have been president a long time ago. He was ahead of his time.

Q: What is your most unusual button?

A: Ray Shamie. He had a picture taken with his wife at the Marshfield Fair at a little booth [when he was running for U.S. Senate in 1984]. They made a button of it and hung it up. I saw it and I said, “I want to buy that pin.” The man said, “It’s not for sale.” I said, “What’s your price?” He said, “It’s not for sale.” I got it for $3. I was so persistent, he sold it to me.