madeleine albright's read my pins book

Madeleine Albright's "Read My Pins" tells how the leader used jewelry as a diplomatic tool. Photo: Diana Walker | Liberty Pin, Gijs Bakker

She was the country's first female secretary of state. She served as America's ambassador to the United Nations. Add best-selling author, professor and adviser. And, man, does Madeleine Albright know how to accessorize!

"Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal," Albright writes in her new book "Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box" (Harper, $40).

"Former President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying 'Read my lips.' I began urging colleagues and reporters to 'Read my pins.'"

In the illustrated memoir, Albright shares the stories behind her unique pin collection, and explains how brooches became a signature diplomatic tool. Check out the meaning behind a few of her styles:

Madeleine Albright's pin, Serpent, Designer Unknown (USA), c. 1860, from "Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box" by Madeleine K. Albright (Harper). Photo: John Bigelow Taylor

  • The Serpent: When Albright criticized Saddam Hussein for refusing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, Iraq's government-controlled press published a poem denouncing her as an "unparalleled serpent." Soon after, she decided to wear a pin in the shape of a serpent to a meeting with Iraqi officials.
  • The Dove: A gift from Leah Rabin (widow of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin), she wore this pin to convey the need for ending violence and encouraging reconciliation between historic rivals in the Holy Land.

Polar Bear, Lea Stein (France), c. 2000, from Albright's collection, featured in "Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box" by Madeleine K. Albright (Harper). Photo: John Bigelow Taylor

  • The Blue Bird: Albright wore this pin with its head soaring upwards until the day when, in 1996, Fidel Castro's air force shot down four Cuban-American pilots in international air space off the Florida coast. Then, in public protest, she pointed the pin downward to condemn the killings and mourn the fallen fliers.
  • The American Flag: Albright displayed this pin when meeting with Kim Jong-il, North Korea's reclusive dictator, during her negotiating trip to that country in 2000, to show pride in democratic values.
  • The "Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil" Monkeys: Albright used this trio of pins to chide Russian President Vladimir Putin for his failure to acknowledge human rights violations committed by the Russian military in the violence-plagued region of Chechnya.
  • The Atlas: Albright often wore this pin to important meetings to convince foreign colleagues that the weight of the world was on their shoulders.
"Read My Pins" is published in conjunction with the Museum of Arts and Design's first major exhibition of jewelry from the collection of Madeleine K. Albright.

Starting today (Sept. 30) and running through Jan. 31, the exhibit will travel to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis.

To read how current politics are effecting fashion, click here.