How Madeleine Albright used meaningful brooches to convey foreign policy messages

Madelaine Albright, the American diplomat who served the 64th United States secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Besides making hory as the first female US secretary of state in the aftermath of the cold war, she also conveyed political statements and moods through her choice of fashion accessories, i.e. her brooches.

In 2009, Albright wrote a memoir titled Read My Pins : Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box which speaks of her long career in politics and the diplomatic hory she made using jewellery.

Later, an exhibit titled Read My Pins: The Madelaine Albright Collection was organized the Museum of Arts and Design in New York featuring 50 pins on the panels and 12 free-standing ones, all in different shapes, forms, and designs to communicate the secretary’s sense of humour, wit, and diplomatic messages through the expressive quality of jewellery.
The collection also includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Albright President Barack Obama in 2012 along with items from the set of the television show Madam Secretary. The exhibition was on display from 2009 to 2018 at 22 presidential libraries and museums.

A colourful and playful bug brooch. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
In a 2010 interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Albright shared how she started using jewellery as a diplomatic accessory: “It all began when I was at the United Nations. It was right after the Gulf War and the United States was pressing for resolutions sanctioning Iraq. During that time I had something dreadful to say about Saddam Hussein on a daily basis, which he deserved because he had invaded Kuwait. The government-controlled Iraqi media then compared me to an “unparalleled serpent.” I happened to have a snake pin, and wore it to my next meeting on Iraq. When the press asked me about it, I thought, “Well, this is fun.” I was the only woman on the Security Council, and I decided to get some more costume jewelry. On good days, I wore flowers and butterflies and balloons, and on bad days, all kinds of bugs and carnivorous animals. I saw it as an additional way of expressing what I was saying, a visual way to deliver a message.”

In the same interview, Albright also talked about the brooch that caught Russian president Vladimir Putin’s eye: “When I went to Russia with President Bill Clinton for a summit, I wore a pin with the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no evil monkeys, because the Russians never would talk about what was really going on during their conflict with Chechnya. Putin asked why I was wearing those monkeys. I said, because of your Chechnya policy. He was not amused. I probably went too far.”
Madelaine Albright wearing two flowers as brooches. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Her collection features statement brooches like a Chrmas tree in the colours of the American flag, a golden snake brooch, a gold bird with a pearl, playful button figurines, intricate crescent moon design, the American seal, a colourful Statue of Liberty, and many more.
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