As a young girl, Sarah decides to use a silver button as a symbol of her dream to become a jurist, despite the impossibility of a woman having such a career in this time period. Sarah wants to be a jurist so that she can influence laws that will improve conditions for slaves. When Sarah’s father tells Sarah that this dream will never come true, Sarah throws the button in the fire, showing how she has given up on her ambitions. Yet Handful saves the button from the ashes, stating that the support of other female friends is necessary for any woman to succeed. Handful gives the button back to Sarah at her lowest moment, reminding Sarah of her once passionate ideals and giving her the strength to continue fighting for equality.
Sarah keeps the button hidden for many years, as she is not yet ready to admit her radical ambitions to the world. When Sarah lives in Philadelphia and decides to become a Quaker minister, Sarah finally openly wears the button to show her brave commitment to abolition and racial equality. The presence of the button keeps Sarah from giving up on her goal to help the slaves by taking the easy road of marrying a Quaker gentleman, and it gives Sarah courage when she faces her fears and gives public lectures about the evils of slavery. Though Sarah never becomes a jurist, the silver button keeps her on a path towards working for equality for all people.
Sarah’s Silver Button Quotes in The Invention of Wings
When autumn came, Lucretia and I attended the women’s meeting at Arch Street where we found ourselves standing in a crowded vestibule beside Jane Bettleman, who glared pointedly at the fleur de lis button I'd sewed at the throat of my gray dress. Granted, the button was ornate and expensive, and it was large, the size of a brooch. I'd freshly polished the silver, so there in the bright-lit atrium, it was shining like a small sun.