The United States’ first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has died at the age of 84, her family said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th U.S. Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today,” the statement read in part. “The cause was cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.”
A long-time foreign policy veteran, Albright became America’s top diplomat in 1997 during the Clinton government.
Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague in 1937 – in what was then Czechoslovakia – Albright was the daughter of a Czechoslovak diplomat who was forced into exile after the occupation of his country by Nazi Germany in 1939.
She moved to the United States in 1948, the same year her family applied for political asylum, arguing that they were unable to return home as opponents of their country’s communist regime. She became a US citizen in 1957.
Soon after Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993, Albright was appointed ambassador to the United Nations – her first diplomatic posting.
A refugee who fled to the US with her family as a child, she made history by becoming the first woman to serve as secretary of state – the highest-ranking woman in US government up to that point.
In 1997, she became secretary of state, overcoming opposition from what some later termed the “anything but but Albright” faction of the White House.
– Input from bbc.com was used in this article