MISSED OUR LATEST SHOW? Podcasts of The Women's Eye Radio Show are NOW available on iTunes. Check them out and if you like, leave us a review. Click Here

Madeleine Albright’s Pins Make Fashion History

Madeleine Albright wearing her Liberty pin

UDPATE 9/23/13: Madeleine Albright Joins Twitter (@madeleine) and shows new tweet pin

By Stacey Gualandi/November 18, 2012

Being a U.S. diplomat doesn’t mean you can’t make a fashion statement.  Just ask the first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  She had a reputation as a classy-yet-firm negotiator when meeting with heads of state, dictators, and foreign dignitaries while serving under President Clinton and then as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

But she also became known for the beautiful brooches she wore – pins that were not only fashion-forward, but also a subtle way of expressing her opinion on current events.  We ran across this wonderful collection of pins from her personal collection at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA and wanted to share them with you.

Uncle Sam Top Hat and Uncle Sam Eagle Pins, Circa 1940

Two hundred pins are currently on display there through January 13, 2013.  The museum show explores “the power of jewelry to communicate through a style and language of its own.”   Some are demure and others are prickly but most emphasize her American pride.

Albright says the pins were part of her “personal diplomatic arsenal.”  She has said, “While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘read my lips,’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘read my pins.’”

Mdadeleine Albright's Bluebird pin, circa 1880

The Bluebird pin, Circa 1880

This exhibit, also showcased in her 2009 book  Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box, is “part memoir, part social history, and allows an intimate look into Albright’s life through the jewelry she wore.”

She told Smithsonian Magazine that she gets some of her pins at flea markets; some are purchased in souvenir and antique shops.  A friend even gave her 65 pins on her 65th birthday. Mainly, she says, they just kind of happen.

Some examples of her eclectic collection:

Madeleine Albright's Serpent Pin, Circa 1860 Designer Unknown, USA

The Serpent, Circa 1860

In 1994, Saddam Hussein’s government-controlled press referred to Albright, who was at that time U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as an “unparalleled serpent” after she publicly criticized Hussein.  At her next meeting on the subject of Iraq, Albright wore a golden snake brooch, beginning a career-long practice of using jewelry to convey and reinforce diplomatic messages.

Madeleine Albright's Bee Pin, Circa 1980, Designer Unknown

Bee Pin, Circa 1980

Madam Albright would wear this pin when she wanted to emulate Muhammad Ali and  “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”  She also adorned this pin while meeting with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during peace negotiations with the Isrealis.  He felt the sting, but Albright says he ultimately didn’t make the right decisions.

Madeleine Albright's Bejeweled Mickey Pin, Circa 1989

Bejeweled Mickey, 1989. Mickey Mouse © DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.

The Secretary says she would wear this iconic character above when negotiations were at a standstill, and it seemed like “it was a Mickey Mouse operation.”

What a fascinating collection!  It’s definitely time to pull out some of my vintage pins.

For more information about these special brooches as some call them (although the Secretary prefers the word pins), you can contact the Bowers Museum.

We must show you the new tweet pin that Ms. Albright tweeted 9/23/13.

Madeleine Albright Twitter pix

Lead Photo by Diana Walker