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Madeleine Albright, 1st female U.S. secretary of state, dies at 84

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright died from cancer on Wednesday at the age of 84, her family announced.

Albright made history as the first woman to hold the position, serving under former President Bill Clinton from 1997 until 2001.

“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 cause was cancer,” her family said in a statement.

Madeleine Albright.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the set of the show "Madam Secretary." (David M. Russell/CBS via Getty Images)

“She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. Madeleine Albright, born Marie Jana Korbelova, was a native of Prague who came to the United States as a refugee in 1948 and rose to the heights of American policy-making, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Madeleine Albright behind a lectern reading: U.S. Department of State.
Albright in 1998. She served as secretary of state from 1997 until 2001. (Jessica Persson/AFP via Getty Images)

“A tireless champion of democracy and human rights, she was at the time of her death a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, part of Dentons Global Advisors, chair of Albright Capital Management, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship foundation, chair of the National Democratic Institute, chair of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and an author.”

Madeleine Albright blows a kiss.
Albright blows a kiss at the end of her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Her family continued to express their love for Albright, explaining that she founded “the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College, served as a lifetime trustee of The Aspen Institute, and was a member of the chapter of the Washington National Cathedral.”

While Albright was the highest-ranking woman in the country at the time she served in the administration, she was not in the presidential line of succession because she was born in Czechoslovakia.