History of Franklin: The Ladybug Story


Ladybug statues, like this one found downtown, represent Franklin’s core values.

To those who have never heard of “The Ladybug Story,” the several ladybug decorations around Franklin may seem like mere ornaments, or perhaps contributors to an obscure joke that only townies understand. 

However, the red-and-black bugs hold much more significance than what meets the eye. Whether they be represented in kindness rock gardens or in sculptures downtown, ladybugs make clear to passersby that they are a significant aspect of Franklin’s cultural fabric. 

While many know that the ladybug is currently deemed Massachusetts’ official state insect, it is widely forgotten that the initial campaign had roots in Franklin itself – particularly, within the walls of Kennedy Elementary School.

Pamela Johnson, a second grade teacher at Kennedy, was teaching her class about various official Massachusetts symbols when her students noticed one significant absence: a state bug. Inspired by their enthusiasm and a desire to educate her class about the importance of lawmaking, Ms. Johnson proposed the idea to collectively draft a petition to the state legislature, thus beginning the process of creating an official law. 

Kennedy Elementary School is to thank for the creation and passage of the ladybug bill. (Creative Commons)

Ms. Johnson and her class’ ladybug plan endured several steps on its way towards enactment. After becoming a bill by the House of Representatives, preparations were made for it to be studied and tried in court. Ms. Johnson’s class visited the State House in Boston multiple times to speak at a hearing, attend the trial, and even view the signing of the bill by the governor. After many months and countless hours, Kennedy’s efforts had prevailed: the ladybug was named the official state bug of Massachusetts. For a more in-depth recount of the affair, check out the full story here.

Mary MacMurray, a music teacher at Kennedy School, says she is proud of the work that her school has done for the state of Massachusetts. “We definitely set this expectation of excellence,” she notes. “We thought outside the box, we were creative, and [taking the matter] to the state level feels important; we carry it through in everything we do here.

A ladybug-painted rock found outside Kennedy School. (Creative Commons)

After the success of Ms. Johnson’s class in 1974, the town of Franklin began incorporating ladybugs into its way of life. The bug is a representation of the spirit, teamwork, and extensive research that enabled some of the very youngest at Kennedy School to channel their passion and make a change. The many ladybug sculptures that reside around town within banks, local stores, and even the Franklin Public Library, pay homage to that experience. Plans for a new Ladybug Trail are already underway, yet another way to remind residents of “The Ladybug Story,” and foster a sense of community and kindness. More information on the trail can be found here.

As to why ladybugs were the insect of choice, Mrs. MacMurray, says that ladybugs have an inherently lovable reputation. “They’re vibrant, they have bright colors, and the idea that they’re lucky as well is something that I think everyone can admire.”

It is evident that ladybugs are an important historical symbol, not only to the town of Franklin but to Massachusetts history as well. Whether it is Kennedy alumnus or other residents, there is a collective understanding of the unity that ladybugs have brought to Franklin that is undoubtedly unique.