Telling Stories of Women at the Department of State through the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s Collection

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#DiscoverDiplomacy during this #WomensHistoryMonth.
#DiscoverDiplomacy during this #WomensHistoryMonth.

Telling Stories of Women at the Department of State through the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s Collection

The U.S. Diplomacy Center is dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Each item in our collection of over 7,200 artifacts has a story to tell and sheds light on a unique moment of diplomatic history.

Our mission is to help domestic and international visitors understand what diplomacy is, who does it, and the critical role that diplomacy plays in securing America’s peace and prosperity. Visitors will experience the world of diplomatic engagement through state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, role playing exercises, and our unique artifacts. As part of the Bureau of Public Affairs, we also embrace efforts to showcase aspects of diplomacy that are as diverse as America -- ensuring audiences that visit us in-person or online experience inclusive, innovative, and diverse stories and conversations.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we are featuring some of our favorite artifacts to tell the story of memorable diplomatic moments in the careers of women at the Department of State.

This clutch purse belonged to Patricia Morton, also known as “Pistol Packing Patti,” the first woman to become a Diplomatic Security Special Agent. In the absence of gear made specifically for women, Morton used this dark blue clutch to carry her DS-issued .357 Magnum Revolver.

Gift of Patricia “Patti” Morton


This “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” pin is one of over 200 pins Madeleine Albright wore during her tenure as Secretary of State. This pin symbolizes her accomplishment in shattering the glass ceiling to become the first female U.S. Secretary of State. The stories told by Secretary Albright’s pins explore the use of the pin or brooch as a means of personal and diplomatic expression. As she would often say, “Read My Pins.” On January 10, 2017, Secretary Albright announced the donation of her pin collection to the U.S. Diplomacy Center.

Gift of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Credits: Photography: John Bigelow Taylor; Designer: Vivian Shimoyama


These dog tags belonged to Foreign Service Officer Constance R. Harvey, one of the first women to pass the Foreign Service Test in 1929. Harvey served as the Vice Consul in Lyon, France, and was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1947 for her service with the French Underground from 1941-1942. During WWII, some non-military personnel who worked with the U.S. Army were issued dog tags.

Gift of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training


This six-foot-long beaded scepter was given to Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders when she was bestowed a Yoruba Chieftaincy by one of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups. Ambassador Sanders was the first woman to represent the United States to Nigeria as ambassador. She was awarded five chieftaincies from four of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups during her tenure as ambassador, a truly unique honor.

Gift of Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders


These eyeglasses were worn by U.S. Embassy Tehran Consular Assistant Kathleen Stafford as part of her disguise during a covert CIA operation to exfiltrate her and five other embassy employees from Iran on January 28, 1980. Known as the “Canadian Six,” they were sheltered in the homes of Canadian Embassy officials in Tehran after they avoided capture by student militants who seized the U.S. Embassy on November 4, 1979. The CIA operation was dramatized in the popular 2012 film “Argo.”

Gift of Kathleen Stafford


This green suit was worn by Ambassador Prudence Bushnell on the day of the August 7, 1998, terrorist attack on U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya. The bloodstained jacket symbolizes the dangers America’s diplomats often face while serving the United States abroad.

Gift of Ambassador Prudence Bushnell

These objects shed light on some memorable diplomatic moments for women at the Department of State.

We invite you to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages for more stories about women in diplomacy!

About the Author: Matthew Pickett serves in the U.S. Diplomacy Center in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This story also appears on the U.S. Department of State's publication on