The first Prague-born US female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, dies of cancer at 84

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Photo: AFP

Madeleine AlbrightAmerica’s first female secretary of state and one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation, died Wednesday of cancer at the age of 84, her family announced.

Albright, who came to the United States as an 11-year-old political refugee, became the nation’s top diplomat under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001.

In a statement, Albright’s family said she passed away “surrounded by family and friends” and paid tribute to “a loving mother, grandmother, sister and friend” as well as to a “tireless champion of democracy and human rights”.

Born in Prague in 1937, Albright’s family, who were Jewish despite not knowing their heritage until later in life, fled before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 – moving first in England, then in America a decade later.

She lost several members of her family in the Nazi extermination camps.

After studying political science, Albright entered politics as a fundraiser, then congressional aide — and entered President Jimmy Carter’s administration working for Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the national security adviser. of Carter.

When Clinton took office in 1993, he hired Albright as ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1996 she was named secretary of state.

Albright – whose global influence at the peak of his career has been compared to that of Margaret Thatcher in Britain – knew she was part of a new generation of women in public service.

“Before, the only way for a woman to really make her views on foreign policy felt was to marry a diplomat and then pour tea in the lap of an offensive ambassador,” Albright said.

“Today, women are engaged in all facets of global affairs.”

In her former department, spokesperson Ned Price remembered Albright as “a trailblazer as the first female Secretary of State and literally opened doors for much of our workforce.”

“I know there are a lot of people in this building who are grieving and will be grieving today,” he added.

Berta D. Wells