Madeleine Albright, the first female US Secretary of State, passes away

Madeleine Albright, the first female US Secretary of State dies at the age of 84. She came to the United States as a child refugee and rose to the position of first female US Secretary and then shaped American foreign policy at the end of the 20th century. Tapped by President Bill Clinton as ambassador to the United Nations then as the US top diplomat, Albright was one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation.

Albright took the helm of the State Department in a post-Cold War world in which the United States had emerged as the sole superpower, leading crucial discussions with world leaders on arms control, trade, terrorism and the future of NATO. Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Czechoslovakia on May 15, 1937, Albright came to the United States as a refugee with her family in 1948 and became a US citizen in 1957.

Her father, Josef Korbel, a diplomat, had converted from Judaism to Catholicism after the family fled to London in 1939 to escape the Nazis. Fluent in English, Czech, French and Russian, Albright earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College. She earned her doctorate in political science at Columbia University and went to work for Democratic senator Edmund Muskie. Albright married Joseph Albright in 1959. They had three daughters and divorced in 1982. Her memoirs, “Madam Secretary,” were published in 2003. She also wrote a book about her huge collection of brooches which, she explained to Smithsonian magazine in 2010, sometimes were “reflective of whatever issue we’re dealing with.”


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