Madeleine Albright, First Female Secretary Of State, Dead At 84

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Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright, the first female secretary of state, who arrived in the U.S. as a young girl from war-torn Czechoslovakia before becoming a political and feminist icon, died Wednesday at 84.

Albright’s death from cancer was confirmed by her family in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

Albright, who served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, pushed for NATO expansion eastward into the former Soviet bloc and helped lead the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She previously served as Clinton’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.

Albright told USA TODAY in 2020 that she had “a trick” to make sure her position was made clear in a foreign policy arena dominated by men.

Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright, the first female secretary of state, who arrived in the U.S. as a young girl from war-torn Czechoslovakia before becoming a political and feminist icon, died Wednesday at 84.

Albright’s death from cancer was confirmed by her family in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

Albright, who served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, pushed for NATO expansion eastward into the former Soviet bloc and helped lead the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She previously served as Clinton’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.

Albright told USA TODAY in 2020 that she had “a trick” to make sure her position was made clear in a foreign policy arena dominated by men.

Ned Price, the State Department’s chief spokesman, called Albright a “trailblazer,” adding President Joe Biden and his chief diplomat Antony Blinken “have been apprised of this” and said the U.S. diplomatic corps was grieving her death.

“She was a trailblazer as the first female secretary of state and quite literally opened doors for a large element of our workforce,” Price said. “She took so many people under her wing … It’s a really devastating piece of news.”

Born in Prague in 1937, Albright – then Madeleine Korbel – fled to England with her family in 1939, less than two weeks after Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. While her family was of Jewish ancestry, she was raised Roman Catholic and only learned at the time of her 1997 secretary of state confirmation that three of her grandparents died in the Holocaust.

Albright’s family lived in the cellar of an apartment in Notting Hill before returning to Prague after World War II. They moved to the U.S. in 1948 after the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. Her family eventually settled in Denver, where her father worked as a dean of the school of international relations at the University of Denver.

“I lived in many, many places,” Albright told USA TODAY in 2020 when she was recognized as one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Century. “I was asked to describe myself in six words at dinner, which were ‘worried, optimist, problem solver, grateful American.'”