Former US secretary of state Albright dead at 84

By Tom Ravlic

March 24, 2022

Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright has died. (Jack Gruber-USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA /AAP)

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the role of secretary of state in a US administration, has died from cancer overnight, aged 84.

Albright was not only to become noted for her role in diplomacy during her life. She became a role model to women and was well known for saying that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”.

She and her family fled Czechoslovakia when the Germans occupied the country in 1939. The family returned to Czechoslovakia after the Second World War but then left their home country for the United States because of the rise of communism.

Albright’s star in the world of diplomacy rose while she was the ambassador for the US at the United Nations.

She served in that role from 1993 to 1997 and Albright took up the role of secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under the Clinton administration.

Her approach to diplomacy was often blunt, and during the conflicts in the Balkans it was Albright who insisted the world should take a harsher line on the Serbian forces in Bosnia Herzegovina, who had the country’s capital under siege.

The US and NATO forces eventually provided air cover in an attempt to stop the war in Bosnia that had, by the stage of intervention, already been running for three years.

Albright also managed to needle various world leaders as secretary of state to the point where she was called an “unparalleled serpent” by Saddam Hussein. She would later begin wearing a snake brooch as a way of sending a message to Hussein.

President Joe Biden described Albright as a force in a statement issued to mark her passing.

“She defied convention and broke barriers again and again. She was an immigrant fleeing persecution.  A refugee in need of safe haven.  And like so many before her — and after — she was proudly American,” Biden said.

“As the devoted mother of three beloved daughters, she worked tirelessly to raise them while earning her doctorate degree and starting her career in American diplomacy.”

Former president George W Bush said Albright lived the American dream.

“When she arrived in the United States as a young girl aboard the SS America in 1948, she never dreamt that she would become our nation’s first female Secretary of State,” Bush said.

“She served with distinction as a foreign-born foreign minister who understood firsthand the importance of free societies for peace in our world.”


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