The term “flower power” was coined by the American poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 and used as a symbol of peaceful protest against war and to underline an ideology of non-violence. The term went hand-in-hand with “Make love not war”. This was the time of the American counterculture movement which sprang up in the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s in total opposition to the Vietnam War. Hippies symbolized the term by dressing in flower-embroidered clothes in psychedelic colours with flowers in their hair and distributing flowers to passersby in the streets. The hippy subculture, which spread rapidly throughout the world, originated in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and stemmed from what was called the Beat Generation. This term described a group of American writers, including Ginsberg, who became famous in the 1950s and wrote about the new culture phenomenon: the Beat Culture which rejected mainstream values, encouraged social permissiveness, the use of marijuana and LSD to “explore the mind”, listened to psychedelic music, raved over psychedelic art and leaned towards Eastern culture and spirituality.
“Flower power” originated in Berkley California. In an essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Allen Ginsberg advocated that protesters should bring masses of flowers to hand to the press, police, politicians and onlookers, in order to transform anti-war rallies from angry, threatening scenes into peaceful spectacles. Protesting in this way attracted considerable and positive attention and the term “flower power” was adopted as a symbol of the counter-culture-movement. Whilst the permissive ideology of the so-called “flower children” was by no means widely accepted, its basis was at least aimed at promoting a more peaceful society.
As Scott McKezie sang in his 1967 hit: If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…”