Herstory Was Made And Madeleine Albright’s Legacy Lives On

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Just a week shy of Women’s History Month coming to a close, Madeleine Albright, the first woman U.S. secretary of state, has died. Reports emerged on Wednesday that the trailblazer who was once the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government died of cancer. She was 84 years old.

In a statement announcing her death, Albright was described as having been surrounded “by family and friends” when she died.

“We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend,” the statement said, lauding their loved one as a “tireless champion of democracy and human rights.”

She is survived by three daughters and six grandchildren, a brother, and a sister.

Her Story Made History

Albright immigrated with her family to the United States in 1948 from Czechoslovakia and she would go on to collect degrees from Wellesley College in 1959 and Columbia University in 1975. She’d go on to work at Georgetown University in 1982 and even directed the university's program on women in global politics. Involved heavily with the Democratic Party on foreign policy, Albright worked closely with 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988. She later rose to national and global prominence when she served as an ambassador to the United Nations for the United States during President Bill Clinton's administration. She was later confirmed as secretary of state in 1997 during Clinton’s second term. 

As per the The New York Times, Albright “dealt with regional conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Haiti, Northern Ireland and the Middle East,” “promoted the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet bloc nations of Eastern Europe and defended continued economic sanctions against Iraq.”

After her time as secretary of state, which ended in 2001, Albright taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, authored many bestsellers, been awarded the Medal of Freedom by former president Barack Obama, starred in several TV shows, and has been — and will continue to be — an inspiration to women all over the globe.

Paying It Forward for All Women

It’s all too apropos that Albright’s passing coincides with a huge moment in time for women in politics. Wednesday also marked the third day of hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is slated to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Albright’s legacy shows women — of all backgrounds — that it’s possible to make a name for yourself, be a leader, and be part of the change you want to see in this world. Her ethos can be best summed up in her own words, from an interview she did in 2020 with Elle magazine, where she explained how women can help pay it forward when it comes to being successful: 

"You're in a meeting and you think to yourself, 'I'm not going to say something. Everybody will think it's stupid.' Then some man says it and everybody thinks it's brilliant, and you're really mad at yourself for not speaking. The most important thing I saw was that you needed to have another woman in the room, so she could say, 'Madison said it exactly right,' because that's what men do with each other,” she said. “This is where I came up with the most famous statement I ever made: 'There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.' You really want to have support and create the possibility for people around you to also have chances. You don't want to be the only woman in the room."

Tags: Groundbreaking Women, KNOWHERNAME, Women's History Month

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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