National Jeweler Network

Celebrity Style

Albright’s alma mater latest to read her pins

April 04, 2014

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore this snake pin after the government-controlled press in Iraq referred to her as an “unparalleled serpent” in 1994.

Wellesley, Mass.--This summer, Wellesley College will host a display of the brooches former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore to communicate certain messages during her political tenure.

The traveling exhibition was organized by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and includes more than 200 of Albright’s pins.

Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection will run at the Davis Museum at Wellesley from June 9 to July 20. The pins range from fine antique pieces to costume jewelry, spanning more than a century of jewelry design. 

Albright, who graduated from Wellesley in 1959, was named the first female Secretary of State in 1997. At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. 

While serving under former President Bill Clinton, first as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and then as secretary of state, Albright became known for wearing brooches that purposefully conveyed a message about current situations.

“I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” Albright has said before. “While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips,’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’”

One such instance was when Saddam Hussein’s government-controlled press in Iraq referred to Albright as an “unparalleled serpent” in 1994. Albright, who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, then wore a gold snake brooch pinned to her suit during her next meeting on Iraq.

The exhibit will showcase this famous snake brooch alongside a number of other pins that are either associated with a world event or were gifts from international leader or friends.

It will also display a group of Americana pieces at the center of the Albright collection. One of the most original pieces is a silver pin made especially for Albright that has the head of Lady Liberty with two watch faces as eyes, one of which is upside down to allow both the wearer and others to read the time.

“I am delighted to bring this collection to my alma mater,” Albright said. “Wellesley was one of the first places that gave me the opportunity to engage with global politics, develop my political views and explore creative ways to express those views so it’s only fitting to bring pins and politics back to Wellesley.”

In addition to the exhibit, Albright will give a talk as well as a book signing on June 16 at the school’s Alumnae Hall. 

Read My Pins: A Conversation with Madeleine Albright ’59 and Wellesley College president H. Kim Bottomly will be free and open to the general public.