Josephine S. Margetts

Violets of New Jersey

February 16, 1971

On this day, the New Jersey State Flower, the Violet, was officially adopted by the legislature after a proposal from Josephine S. Margetts.

In 1967, when Josephine Margetts was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in 1967, she became the first woman to represent Morris County, New Jersey, since 1938.
Politics was in Josephine’s blood. Her grandfather, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, ran for Governor of Pennsylvania. Josephine’s late husband, Walter T. Margetts Jr., served as New Jersey’s state treasurer.

A nursery and orchard owner, Josephine was environmentally conscious, and she introduced legislation to protect the land and waterways of New Jersey - even helping to ban the use of DDT.

Long before Josephine was born, the violet was unofficially selected as the State Flower of New Jersey. By the late 1960s, New Jersey was the only state without legislation supporting an official state flower.

And so, with the urging of local garden clubs, Josephine introduced legislation in February of 1971 to make the violet the official State Flower of New Jersey.
When it came time for Josephine’s bill to be debated in the legislature, Josephine’s peer, Sen. Joseph J. Maraziti, R-Morris, read this poem:

“Roses are red, 
Violets are blue 
If you vote for this bill
Mrs. Margetts will love you.”


Josephine’s legislation was passed 30-1. The sole dissenting vote was Sen. Frank J. Guarini, D-Hudson. He told the press,

"I'm a marigold man."


Two years later, in 1973, a newspaper called The Record out of Hackensack, New Jersey, shared an Op-Ed titled Consider the Lilies of the Field.

“Conventional, chauvinist wisdom would have it that Mrs. Margetts introduced the bill because she's a woman and women are well, you know interested in growing things, flowers and plants and trees, the fruit of the earth. But Mrs. Margetts is not one of your everyday garden club ladies. She studied at the Ambler School of Horticulture, she operates a commercial apple and peach orchard in Pennsylvania, and she has a holly nursery on the grounds of her home in New Vernon. The house on the property is rather substantial for a Jersey farmhouse if memory serves, it has 14 bathrooms, but no matter.”


As Josephine no doubt knew, Violets are spring flowers that have been around for a long time. The ancient Greeks enjoyed violets. If you enjoy floriography ("FLOOR-EE-ah-grah-FEE") or the symbolic meaning of plants, the heart-shaped leaves offer a clue to their meaning: affection, love, faith, and dignity. The color of violets can add another layer of meaning. Blue violets especially symbolize love and devotion. White violets symbolize purity, and yellow violets symbolize goodness and high esteem. 

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Josephine S. Margetts
Josephine S. Margetts

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