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NEWS & IDEAS

Throwback Thursday: Madeleine Albright Becomes the First Female Secretary of State

Throwback Thursday: Madeleine Albright Becomes the First Female Secretary of State

Madeleine Albright told MAKERS, “It never, ever occurred to me that I could be Secretary of State.” But on January 23, 1997, she became the first female U.S. Secretary of State and the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government at the time of her appointment. She spent four years in office, working with the Clinton administration to reinforce U.S. alliances and promote American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad.

Albright was born in then-Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States with her family as a teen. She went to high school in Denver, where she (fittingly) founded the international relations club and served as its first president. She then earned her BA at Wellesley and her PhD at Columbia University. In her memoir, Albright wrote, “I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.”

Albright eventually began teaching at Georgetown University, specializing in Eastern European studies. In 1993, President Clinton made her Ambassador to the United Nations. She spoke out against Cuban military pilots who shot down civilian aircraft over international waters, saying “This is not cojones. This is cowardice.”

The high achiever is also the mother of twins and an avid collector of brooches. She called her jewelry part of her “personal diplomatic arsenal,” and once wore a snake brooch during a meeting with Saddam Hussein.

See the brooch she chose for our interview and hear her stories in her own words: