Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, died Wednesday, her family said in a statement. She was 84.
She died of cancer, her family said, adding that she was “surrounded by family and friends” at the time.
“We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend,” the statement said, as well as a “tireless champion of democracy and human rights.”
Then-President Bill Clinton named Albright U.S. ambassador to the United Nations shortly after he was inaugurated in 1993, and nominated her as secretary of state three years later. She was confirmed in 1997 by a vote of 99-0. At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.
Albright served in the post for four years, actively promoting the expansion of NATO and military intervention in Kosovo.
After leaving public office, she went on to teach at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and became a prolific author, writing seven New York Times bestsellers.
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
“I never thought that I would have the kind of life I’ve had,” she told Elle magazine in a 2020 interview. Asked for her best job experience, she said, “Being Secretary of State and sitting behind the sign that said the United States, especially since I wasn’t born here, and I am a very grateful American.”
She’s survived by three daughters and six grandchildren, as well as a brother and sister.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.