Madeleine Albright, 1937

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Woman Category: Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    A politician and diplomat. The first female Secretary of State in the US.

    Marie Jana Korbelová was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In 1939, when she was two years old, Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, and the family fled to England. When the war ended, the family relocated to Belgrade, then in Yugoslavia, where her father worked as the Czechoslovakian Ambassador. To avoid communist education, she was sent to a school in Switzerland and changed her name to Madeleine. In 1948, after the communist coup on Czechoslovakia, the family immigrated to the US as political refugees and settled in Denver, Colorado.
    After high school, she studied political science at Wellesley College. During vacations, she interned at The Denver Post, where he met Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, a Medill newspaper-publishing family member. The couple married in 1959, shortly after she received her BA with honors. At 25, now with twin daughters, they moved to Washington, DC, and she studied Russian and international relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. A year later, the family relocated to Long Island, and Albright continued her studies at Columbia University, from which she earned a Ph.D. in Public Law and Government in 1975.
    In 1972, Albright worked as a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Main’s Senator Ed Muskie, and later as his chief legislative assistant. In 1978, she was recruited by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was her professor in Colombia, to work at the White House for the National Security Council’s congressional liaison. During the 80s and early 90s, she worked with numerous nonprofit organizations while teaching at Georgetown University as a specialist for Eastern European studies and serving as the university’s Women in Foreign Service Program director. At the time, her home became a gathering place for Democratic politicians, and she was a foreign policy advisor for the Democratic Party in the election campaigns of 1984 and 1988.
    In 1992, when President Clinton won the elections, Albright was chosen to handle the new administration’s transition at the National Security Council. In the following year, she was appointed as the US Ambassador to the United Nations. In Clinton’s second term, Albright was nominated Secretary of State – the first woman to serve in this position, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the US government’s history at the time. During her tenure, Albright advocated for democracy and human rights. She promoted American business, trade, labor, and environmental standards, pushed for the military intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, mediated in peace negotiations in the Middle East, and played a pivot role in the efforts to stop nuclear arming of North Korea.
    In 2001, with the end of President Clinton administration, Albright returned to teach at Georgetown University and founded the Albright Group, an international strategy consulting firm that later got affiliated with Albright Capital Management. She accepted serval board positions, such as the Council on Foreign Relations Board of directors, the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, and the International Advisory Committee of the Brookings Doha Center. She serves as chairwoman of numerous boards, including the NYSE board’s nominating and governance committee, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, and the World Justice Project.

    “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”

    “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Her childhood nickname was “Madlenka.”
    • When she was 4 years old, parents had converted from Judaism to Catholicism. She grew up Catholic and found out about her Jewish heritage at the age of 59. Many of her relatives, including three of her grandparents, had died during the Holocaust.
    • She converted to the Episcopal Church in 1959.
    • During the German air raids on London, her family kept a large metal table in the house that sheltered them during the bombing.
    • As a child during WW2 in England, she was shown in a documentary film designed to promote sympathy for war refugees in London.
    • In high school, she founded the school’s international relations club and was its first president.
    • She became a naturalized US citizen in 1957.
    • She began to learn Russian as a distraction when her twin daughters were hospitalized after been born prematurely.
    • Her doctoral dissertation was on the role of journalists in the Prague Spring of 1968.
    • She made a guest appearance on the TV shows Gilmore Girls and Parks and Recreation.
    • In 2009 she opened an exhibition of her personal jewelry collection at the Museum of Art and Design.
    • She supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016.
    • She published six books.
    • She has three daughters.
    • She divorced her husband in 1982.
    • She was the highest-ranking US official to visit North Korea.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * Honorary degrees from various academic institutes, such as Brandeis University, University of Washington, Knox College, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    * Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame (1998)
    * Honorary Silver Medal of Jan Masaryk by the Bohemian Foundation and the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2000)
    * The US Senator H. John Heinz III Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official (2001)
    * The Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award (2001)
    * The Menschen in Europa Award for furthering the cause of international understanding (2006)
    * Inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame (2010)
    * The Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012)

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: WDC Metro Area Women

    On being a woman and a diplomat - Madeleine Albright

    View full lesson:

    In a frank and funny Q&A with Pat Mitchell from the Paley Center, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks bluntly about politics and diplomacy, making the case that women's issues deserve a place at the center of foreign policy. Far from being a "soft" issue, she says, women's issues are often the very hardest ones, dealing directly with life and death. Since leaving office as U.S. Secretary of State in 2001, Madeleine Albright has continued her distinguished career in foreign affairs as a businesswoman, political adviser and professor.

    Talk by Madeleine Albright.

  • Photo credit - WWP team