Editors

3 Madeleine Albright Pins the World Needs Right Now

EditorsMar 25, 2022

3 Madeleine Albright Pins the World Needs Right Now

The former diplomat used her brooches to send a message, some of which need to be heard right now, Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff writes.

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright accepting the Gem Award for Jewelry Style in 2010, an honor she received for her bountiful collection of brooches, which she used to send messages to other heads of state. She died Wednesday at the age of 84.
Madeleine Albright was known for being the first female secretary of state, a woman who co-opted one Bush’s catchphrase, “Read my lips,” for her own diplomatic and accessory needs.

Albright, who died earlier this week at the age of 84, served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 and was known as a trailblazer, a skilled diplomat, and an avid pin collector.

She used her accessories to send messages to other heads of state, a practice she detailed in 2009’s “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box,” a book with an accompanying touring exhibition organized by the Museum of Art and Design in New York.

The following year, she received the Gem Award for Jewelry Style for her lifelong dedication to the brooch.

In introducing Albright at the 2010 Gem Awards, journalist Tina Brown joked that Albright “added the brooch to the arsenal of diplomacy,” as she crashed through the glass ceiling, rising from an aide in President Jimmy Carter’s office, to President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations to the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government as of 1997.

Having a woman secretary of state “turned out to be such a great idea that we’ve had two other women hold down that job since,” Brown quipped.

Since 2010, another well-accessorized woman, Kamala Harris, has topped Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton in terms of being the highest-ranking woman ever in the U.S. government, and it took only 232 years to get there.

I was lucky enough to attend the Gem Awards back in 2010, and I had the foresight to stand in line after the ceremony to have my copy of “Read My Pins” autographed by Albright.

In light of all that’s happening in the world right now, I took some time Thursday afternoon to thumb through the book, which, admittedly, I haven’t picked up in years, to pick a few pins that send messages of hope, accountability and courage.

Dove Pin from Leah Rabin
While it seems an obvious choice—the dove is well-known as a symbol of peace—what Albright wrote about this particular pin moved me.

The gold-plated dove, made by Cécile et Jeanne in France, was a gift of the late Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 

Albright wore the pin for an appearance before the National Press Club in August 1997 where she outlined ideas for peace negotiations in the Middle East and her plans for a visit to the region.

A few weeks later, Leah Rabin paid a visit to Albright in her hotel room in Israel and gave her a matching necklace featuring a flock of doves along with a note. 

As recounted in “Read My Pins,” the note read: “There is a saying: ‘One swallow doesn’t announce the spring’—so maybe one dove needs reinforcements … We need hope, which is so much lost.” 

Alright wore the pin again in 1997 when paying her respects to victims of the genocide in Rwanda. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

The Three Monkeys
“Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil,” is a well-known adage most often depicted by a trio of monkeys covering their ears, mouth and eyes. 

But, Albright noted in her book, the true meaning behind them often is lost. 

Part of Japanese folklore, the non-hearing, non-speaking and non-seeing monkeys are a reminder about “accepting responsibility for wrongful thoughts and actions”—in other words, not shutting down or turning the other way when you know something is wrong. 

Albright bought the pin, which features the monkeys carved in tagua nut sitting on pink-, purple- and orange-colored glass cabochons circled by crystals, in Brussels. 

Notably, she first wore it to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early 2000, a meeting in which she called attention to the human right violations Russian was committing then in Chechnya. 

Of meeting Putin, she wrote: “My first impressions of the Russian leader were mixed—he was obviously capable, but his instincts appeared more autocratic than democratic. As the months passed, my early hopes were deflated by Putin’s single-minded pursuit of power.” 

Embed from Getty Images

Any Dragonfly Will Do
Albright wrote in “Read My Pins” that when she was a diplomat, she had to carefully consider the symbolism behind animals to various cultures.

Outside of government, however, she was free to pick the creatures she liked, which included one of my favorites, the dragonfly.  

Pictured in the slideshow above is an Albright dragonfly featured at the MAD exhibition, one of a half-dozen featured in the book alongside a pretty incredible mosquito pin.

 “Known to the English as the ‘devil’s darning needle,’ the [dragonfly] is associated by the Japanese with courage, happiness, and strength,” the caption reads. “Artists find dragonflies fascinating; so do I.” 

Rest in peace, Madam Secretary. Thanks for sharing your pins. 

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