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Madeleine Albright: A Life of Courage and Commitment

Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, died today in Washington.

She was 84. The cause was cancer, her family said in a statement.

Albright, who donated her papers to the Library in 2014, was a key figure in the administration of Bill Clinton, serving first as ambassador to the United Nations and then as Secretary of State during his second term. Her no-nonsense foreign policy was informed by her childhood experiences as her family fled from her native Czechoslovakia, first running from the Nazi regime of Germany and then the Communists from Russia. Her family came to the U.S. in 1948.

After her trailblazing career as a public servant, she wrote several bestselling books, including “Madam Secretary: A Memoir,” “Fascism: A Warning,” and “Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir.” She was at the National Book Festival in 2020. In an interview with David Rubenstein, she mused that she was irritated, if not angered, by women who did not support one another: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other,” she said.

She was never out of touch with world events, writing an op-ed in the New York Times in late February, warning about Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s decision to mass troops on the border of Ukraine. The piece is vintage Albright, mixing her role in world affairs with her unapologetically blunt viewpoint.

“Should he invade,” she wrote, “it will be a historic error.”

She is remembered fondly at the Library, where she toured her collection in the Manuscript Division in 2020, chatting with the staff and posing for photographs.

“Madeleine Albright shined on the world stage as a symbol of peace & diplomacy,” Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “As the first female Secretary of State she was a trailblazer and role model. Her memory will live on at the where we are honored to be custodians of her papers.”