Name at birth: Marie Jana KörbelovaMadeleine Albright was the first woman ever to hold the post of U.S. Secretary of State. Albright's father was Josef Körbel, a member of the Czech diplomatic corps; the family escaped the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, and Albright lived in Belgrade, London and Prague before her family settled in Colorado. She earned a political science degree from Wellesley College in 1959, and was later awarded a master's (1968) and doctorate (1976) in public law and government from Columbia University. In 1978 she joined the staff of the National Security Council (under President Jimmy Carter) and began establishing herself as an expert in foreign affairs. President Bill Clinton named her the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1993 and then, in late 1996, named her Secretary of State. She was confirmed in 1997, becoming the first woman ever to hold that post, and served throughout Clinton's second term. As Secretary of State, she was known for her calm demeanor and frank talk, and also for her cheerful habit of wearing brooches and lapel pins that reflected her work and her mood. (That led to her 2009 memoir, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewelbox.) In later years she remained active as a foreign policy consultant and author. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by President Barack Obama. Her other books include the memoir Madam Secretary (2003), The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006), Memo to the President Elect (2008), and Fascism: A Warning (2018).
Madeleine Albright was succeeded by Colin Powell, the first African-American to be Secretary of State. He in turn was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to be Secretary of State. Warren Christopher was Secretary of State during Clinton’s first term, from 1993-96… She married Joseph Albright in 1959; they had three daughters — twins Alice and Anna (b. 1961) and Katherine (b. 1967) — and were divorced in 1982… In Madame Secretary, Albright comments on her first name: “I was christened Marie Jana… My grandmother nicknamed me Madla after a character in a popular show, Madla in the Brick Factory.” That nickname eventually developed into the name Madeleine… In the Czech language, female children add “ova” to their family name — hence Albright’s birth name of Körbelova, from the family name of Körbel. The family dropped the umlaut from “Korbel” while living in England during World War II.
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