Monday, July 16, 2012

Women in politics: Madeleine Albright

Women in power

Currently, there is a third female Secretary of State of the United States serving but, in 1996, Madeleine Albright would be the first one, and the highest ranking woman in U.S. history at the time.
From 1993, she had served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet and National Security Council. Before that, she was the President of the Center for National Policy, a non-profit research organization under a mandate to promote the study and discussion of domestic and international issues. She has also had a long career in academics, as a Research Professor of International Affairs and Director of Women in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
She has three daughters.
Women in power are always under scrutiny from their peers, the press, and the public, not only because of what they say and do, but also because of what they are wearing. When those women are also the first ones in a certain position, the scrutiny becomes even more intense. Some of them use it to their advantage, like former Secretary of State of the US Madeleine Albright.

Patriotic symbols such as the US flag, Uncle Sam's hat and eagle, doves for peace, bees for annoyance or worse (the photo in the centre shows Secretary Albright wearing a 1940's Joseff of Hollywood brooch with three detachable bees), a zebra to represent Africa.

Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewelry box or jewellery as a symbol

Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying "Read my lips." I began urging colleagues and reporters to "Read my pins."*
There are many anecdotes in her book, but it all seems to have started one, a criticism to Sadam Hussein when she was ambassador at the United Nations. His poet in residence called her "an unparalleled serpent", so she decided to wear a snake pin when the US were dealing with Iraq. She started buying costume jewelry brooches, pins and badges to send diplomatic signals. There was an antique eagle purchased to celebrate Albright's appointment as Secretary of State and many other patriotic symbols, but also pins like that serpent. If the US were going to do something nasty, she wore a bee. If she was feeling impatient because of the pace of a negotiation, she wore a turtle (she has a whole collection of those). If she was in a good mood, butterflies and balloons. Soon, international leaders, the press, and the public were  paying attention.
In a famous anecdote, Secretary Albright was wearing a "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" pin in an interview with President Putin. He asked her why she was wearing it, and she answered: "Your Chechnya policy".

*Albright, Madeleine "Read My Pins" Harper, 2009.
Biography from US State Department,
"Pin-up World", Chicago Time Out, 2009
"Madeleine Albright - Read My Pins" Deleuse Jewelers, 2011
Photos (clockwise: 1, 3, 5, 6, and centre, 2, 4,

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I didn't know that brooches could be so political!!! I have to find myself some telling brooches to send messages to my boss. Maybe some form wild animal for when I am angry and something peaceful for when I get "zen" and I don't care what he thinks. This is a very interesting post, a great mixture of style ideas and contemporary politics. Who would have thought!!
    Keep up the good work,