Madeleine Albright's Pin Is Everything

by Margaret Judson

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is no stranger to glass ceilings and/or dominating the pin game, and Thursday night, on one of the most historic nights in U.S. history, the former diplomat brilliantly fused both. On Thursday, for the first time ever, a woman accepted the nomination for president of a major political party, and to commemorate the monumental moment, Albright, in her trademark way, sent the most perfect message with a custom-made brooch.

Albright has a reputation of sorts for communicating by way of accessories. That's because the former secretary of state has made it her mission to use more than just words to get her point across, often using a carefully selected brooch to do the talking. According to an interview with NPR, she says Russian politician Vladimir Putin admitted to former President Bill Clinton that he knew what to anticipate in their meetings just by looking at Albright's left shoulder. Case in point: When the United States discovered Russia engaged in illegal acts against them, Albright wore a wasp as to do "a little stinging and deliver a tough message."

Says Albright to NPR, explaining the origins of her style:

This all started when I was ambassador at the U.N. and Saddam Hussein called me a serpent. I had this wonderful antique snake pin. So when we were dealing with Iraq, I wore the snake pin.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

She goes on to explain to NPR how her trend snowballed — how she used flowers and butterflies to indicate hope or confidence, but she would choose crabs, turtles, and bugs to signal dissatisfaction. Her pins have taken on a life of their own, starring in their own exhibit and leading a memoir-cum-manifesto titled Read My Pins.

Now, in support of her friend of 25 years, Albright wore arguably the best brooch of them all: pieces of broken glass as to indicate the remnants of the ceiling Clinton has so valiantly shattered. In Clinton's 2008 concession speech, she remained optimistic and foreshadowed what was to come, declaring, "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. ... We will someday launch a woman into the White House."

Well, Thursday night, Clinton made good on a major step towards that promise. Albright wore what was left of the proverbial ceiling on her chest, echoing Clinton's acceptance speech that evening proclaiming to have put the "biggest crack in the glass ceiling yet."

It's worth keeping track of the historic paraphernalia, albeit symbolic. Even though, in Albright's estimation, some of her words this election season have been misinterpreted, the accessorial gesture serves as a reminder of what women have conquered and contributed in the effort to champion all human rights. As Clinton emphasized in her speech, this isn't just a victory for women and girls, it's a victory for men and boys too: "When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."