Madeleine Albright, First Female Secretary of State and ‘Courageous Woman,’ Dies of Cancer

Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, died of cancer earlier today. She was 84 years old.

Madeleine K. Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state nominated by former President Bill Clinton, died of cancer today at age 84.

In a statement posted on Albright’s Twitter account, her family said, “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.”

Albright was born in Prague, Czech Republic, with the name Marie Jana Korbelova in 1937 and came to the United States as a refugee in 1948. She was a “tireless champion of democracy and human rights,” her family wrote in the statement, and worked in the White House during former President Jimmy Carter’s administration. She then served as a foreign policy adviser to multiple presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

In 1993, former President Bill Clinton appointed Albright as the ambassador to the United Nations. Later, in 1997, she became secretary of state – and was the first woman to hold that position. In 2012, former President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom, stating that her, “toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.”

More recently, Albright penned an op-ed in The New York Times saying that it would be a “historic error” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.

At the time of her death, Albright was the chairwoman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and taught at Georgetown University.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar – who was also previously diagnosed with cancer – shared a tribute to Albright on Twitter. She wrote, “It is impossible to fully capture Madeleine Albright's influence and impact on the world. It is because of courageous women like her that we’ve made so much progress, and so much more is possible. This loss is immeasurable. John and I are keeping her family in our prayers.”

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand echoed Klobuchar’s sentiments. “Madeleine Albright never forgot what it was like to be welcomed to the U.S. as a refugee when she was just 11 years old. She spent the rest of her life fighting for democracy, human rights and for fellow refugees to be welcomed to this country like she was. May she rest in peace.”

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