How did Madeleine Albright die? First female secretary of state, 84, had fled Nazis as a child

Madeleine Albright was known for advising women 'to act in a more confident manner' and 'to ask questions when they occur and don’t wait to ask'


                            How did Madeleine Albright die? First female secretary of state, 84, had fled Nazis as a child
Madeleine Albright had promoted the expansion of NATO and military intervention in Kosovo (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for International Rescue Committee)
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Child refugee Madeleine Albright, who grew up to become the first female US secretary of state, died on Wednesday, March 23, aged 84. Albright, who fled Nazis as a child before rising to fame, died of cancer, her family said. 

“We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today,” her family said in a statement. “She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.”

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Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks with President Clinton during the U.N. Security Council meeting on September 7, 2000 at the United Nations. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers)

Albright attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating with honors in 1959. She also got a doctorate from Columbia University. She was famous for speaking six languages, including Czech, French, Polish, Russian and English. She had three daughters with her husband Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, who was a newspaper heir. The pair divorced in 1982 after being married for more than 20 years. Albright was a notable figure in Bill Clinton’s administration and was named US ambassador to the United Nations when Clinton first took office in 1993. She was the highest-ranking woman in the history of US government back at the time. The secretary of state was known for promoting the expansion of NATO and military intervention in Kosovo.

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“The impact that she has had on this building is felt every single day in just about every single corridor,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. “She was a trailblazer as the first female secretary of state and quite literally opened doors for a large element of our workforce.”

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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A Jewish diplomat born in Prague in 1937, Albright's father fled Czechoslovakia with his family when Nazis invaded the country in 1939, escaping to the UK and converting to Catholicism to avoid persecution. However, Albright learned about her Jewish heritage only after she was sworn in as Secretary of State in 1997. She had arrived in the US as a refugee in 1948. Reportedly, three of her grandparents had been killed in the Holocaust.

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During her career, Albright was known to have criticized former President George W. Bush for using “the shock of force” rather than alliances with Arab leaders. She also famously said that a Cuban shootdown of a civilian plane was a move made with “cowardice,” not “cojones". She was known for advising women “to act in a more confident manner” and “to ask questions when they occur and don’t wait to ask.” Former president Barack Obama gave Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, telling her that she was an inspiration to all Americans.

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Following her death, President Joe Biden tweeted, "Madeleine Albright was a force for goodness, grace, and decency — and for freedom. Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history. Jill and I will miss her dearly and send our love and prayers to her family." Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter, "As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine Albright was a champion for democratic values. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Albright family and everyone who knew and served with a truly remarkable woman."

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 Vice President Kamala Harris wrote, "The world lost a brilliant and beloved leader today. Madeleine Albright gave so much of her life to public service—always with intelligence, strength, and conviction. Secretary Albright was a mentor and a friend. I will miss her." Politician Nancy Pelosi said, "Today, we lost a towering champion for peace, diplomacy and democracy: Secretary Madeleine Albright.   As the first woman to serve as our top diplomat, she paved the way for generations of women serving at the highest levels of government and representing our nation abroad."

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