Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state, has died. She was 84 years old. The political pioneer’s legacy will be her dedicated and tireless efforts toward human rights.
She championed the expansion of NATO, fought to end violence and genocide in the Balkans, and attempted to coax North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. In a New York Times op-ed written last month, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Albright argued that Vladimir Putin would be making “a historic error” and warned us of the destruction that war will bring. “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.
In 1995, Glamour honored Albright as a Woman of the Year for her work as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (She would go on to become the secretary of state in 1997.) “One of just seven women among the U.N.’s 185 ambassadors—and the only woman on its top-level Security Council—Albright believes that women’s issues like family planning and economic empowerment are as important a part of world politics as treaties and missiles,” Glamour wrote in the profile of the diplomat for the magazine. “She sent that message as chair of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women: ‘Coerced abortions and sterilizations, children sold into prostitution, genital mutilation, dowry murders, girls who just turn up “missing”… Some say this is all cultural and there is nothing we can do about it. I say it’s criminal, and we all have an obligation to stop it.’”
Albright’s speech at the awards ceremony later that year also exemplifies how dedicated Albright was toward advancing women across the globe. Her speech, in full, below:
“It is a great honor to represent the United States of America in the United Nations. And I think from hearing about my background you know for someone who wasn’t born here to be able to sit behind that sign every day that says ‘the United States’ is the highest honor of all.
“When I got to the U.N. I thought, in typical American organizational fashion, that I might in fact gather other women representatives so that we could form a caucus. I asked my assistant to invite the other women to come to lunch. Well, it turned out to be a very small lunch. Out of 185 members, there are six women [other than me] represented, which I think tells you how difficult life is in international affairs for women. So we showed them. First of all, the women that come to lunch are now accused of having unfair access to the American ambassador! And so we have in fact worked together, and I am very proud of something that the United States led, which the other women supported, which involved women judges on the international war crimes tribunal…so those who rape and pillage and murder are going to be brought to justice.