Madeleine Albright, First Woman Secretary of State, Dies at 84
Madeleine Albright, who served as U.S. Secretary of State from 1997-2001 — the first woman ever to take on the role of top diplomat — died Wednesday. She was 84.
The death of Albright, who served under Bill Clinton, was due to cancer, her daughter Anne told The New York Times.
Her family released a statement that read, "We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today. The cause was cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend."
Born May 15, 1937, in Prague, Marie Jana Korbelova was the child of Czech refugees who fled Europe's Nazis and Communists. Only after achieving her career-defining post in the '90s did she come to realize her family had concealed its Jewish roots, converting to Catholicism in the '40s.
Once settled in the U.S., she studied political science at Wellesley and wed Joseph Medill Patterson Albright in 1959.
She began her political career in 1972, and later worked under President Jimmy Carter. She went on to advise Democratic presidential nominees Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Clinton on foreign policy.
She became the U.S. rep to the U.N. (1993-1997) before rising to the office of Secretary of State, which made her the most powerful woman in U.S. history at the time.
When the U.S. was beaten back on a peacekeeping mission in Somalia, the Clinton Administration hedged its bets on Rwanda, and a genocide took place. It was her "deepest regret" that the U.S. failed to halt the crimes there, which she wrote about movingly in her 2003 memoir "Madam Secretary."
A sparkling presence onstage and in interviews, the widely admired Albright uttered perhaps her most famous quote in 2016 while campaigning for her friend Hillary Rodham Clinton. "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other," she said. It has been repeated often, both in agreement and derisively. She later apologized for how the quote was sometimes misconstrued.
After she left her position, she wrote many books, most recently "Fascism: A Warning" (2018) with Bill Woodward, controversially placing Donald Trump among the ranks of world despots.
Divorced since 1982, she is survived by her three children and extended family.