Madeleine Albright, first female US secretary of state, dies at 84

Madeleine Albright died at 84 of cancer, her family said (Picture: Shutterstock)

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be secretary of state, died on Wednesday of cancer. She was 84-years-old.

Born Marie Jana Korbelova, she died surrounded by family and friends, her family said in a statement shared to Twitter.

‘We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend,’ the statement said, as well as a ‘tireless champion of democracy and human rights.’

Albright was often hailed as a ‘champion of democracy,’ and served as America’s top diplomat during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Born in Prague in 1937, Albright had fled with her family from war-torn Czechoslovakia to England just two weeks after Nazi Germany invaded.

Her family returned to Prague after World War II, but by then had converted to Catholicism as Jewish people were met with discrimination and death across Europe at the time. It wasn’t until she was going through screening to become secretary of state in 1997 that she learned three of her Jewish grandparents had died in the Holocaust.

In 1948 following the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, Albright and her family came to the US as refugees.

She went on to become one of the most prominent figures during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Albright was named US ambassador to the United Nations after Clinton took office in 1993, and became Secretary of State three years later. She held the role for the next four years, during which she worked with great force to end violence in other nations.

Most notably she pushed for NATO expansion eastward into the former Soviet bloc and played an instrumental role in getting Clinton to intervene and end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

In a State Department briefing Wednesday, spokesperson Ned Price said President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been notified of Albright’s death.

‘The impact that Secretary Albright had on this building is felt every single day in just about every single corridor,’ Price said, adding that she had been a mentor to Blinken and many others.

In an editorial published in The New York Times just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Albright argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be making ‘a historic error’ in attacking neighboring Ukraine and warned of the devastating costs it would have on his country.

‘Instead of paving Russia’s path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance,’ Albright wrote about a month ago.

At the time of her death she was a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, part of Denton’s Global Advisors, chair of Albright Capital Management, president of the Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation, chair of the National Democratic Institute, chair of the US Defense Policy Board and an author, her family noted in a statement.

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