Madeleine Albright and Her Lasting Feminist Legacy


Madeleine Albright, the first woman to ever serve as the United States Secretary of State, died on March 23, 2022 at age 84 due to cancer.

Caroline Calvert

On March 23, 2022, the United States lost an accomplished diplomat. Madeleine Albright, the first woman to ever serve as the United States Secretary of State, died at age 84 due to cancer. While we grieve as a nation, let us remember how Albright paved the way for future generations of women as the staunch feminist she was.

Albright was born on May 15th, 1937, in Prague, Czech Republic, to Czech diplomat Josef Korbel. She and her family soon fled to England after the Nazi occupation of the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia)  in 1939, due to their Jewish identity. After World War II came to an end, the family returned to Prague only to leave again, this time to America, after a Soviet-affiliated communist coup took power in the city. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1959, as well as receiving a Ph.D. and M.A. from Columbia, Albright’s impressive career began.

In Washington D.C., Albright went on to serve on the Nation Security Council during the Carter and Bush administrations, worked for multiple charity organizations, and taught at Georgetown University. In 1992, Albright was appointed ambassador for the United Nations by president Bill Clinton. It was during this time that Albright solidified a name for herself as the outspoken, devoted American who fought for the rights of her fellow citizens. She was soon nominated in 1996 to become the American Secretary of State. She fought passionately for foreign policy, especially to help regions under active dictatorships, such as Yugoslavia.  

So, what differentiates Madeleine from her past congressional coworkers? Ultimately, it was how she was able to be a trailblazer for future women in Congress. She never apologized for her strong opinions, even when her male counterparts would attempt to push her to. “I really was condescended to by the national security adviser…” Albright recounts to NPR, “… [he] made me feel as if my opinions were overly strong, or to use a word that’s often used against women, emotional, mainly because I felt very strongly about it.” 

The sexism didn’t stop at the steps of Congress, yet Albright persevered, remaining true to her beliefs and opinions. However, even she felt the need to accommodate and compromise from time to time. As an immigrant, Albright felt the desperate need to be a part of a community. She felt an urge to be liked but soon learned that she couldn’t worry about such things if she were to speak on behalf of the United States at the United Nations. “If I didn’t speak, then the United States would not…” Albright elaborates to NPR,  “… And so I got over that very quickly.”

Madeleine Albright has been a pioneer in Congress and out. She is the author of many powerful and insightful books, one of which being Fascism: A Warning and Madam Secretary: A Memoir. It is clear that Madeleine Albright’s impact on American culture will not be easily forgotten.