Political juggernaut Dr. Madeleine Albright passed away at the age of 84 on March 23, 2022. The cause of death was cancer, as announced by her family on Twitter.
“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,” the statement read. “She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend.”
Albright emigrated with her family from Czechoslovakia in 1948. She built her career in political campaigns and in nonprofit work and became a professor at Georgetown. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her ambassador to the United Nations and made her his secretary of state, the first woman to hold the position, in 1997. At the time Albright was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. She held the position until George W. Bush took office in 2001.
Among other accomplishments, Madeleine Albright was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and in 1995, she was one of the Glamour Women of the Year. She also coined the iconic phrase “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
According to USA Today, State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the news, “She was a trailblazer as the first female secretary of state and quite literally opened doors for a large element of our workforce…. She took so many people under her wing…. It’s a really devastating piece of news.”
When presenting her with the Medal of Freedom, President Obama said, “As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world. And as an immigrant herself—the granddaughter of Holocaust victims who fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child—Madeleine brought a unique perspective to the job. This is one of my favorite stories. Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, ‘Only in America can a refugee meet the secretary of state.’ And she replied, ‘Only in America can a refugee become the secretary of state.’”