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

Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state for the U.S., has died of cancer, her family announced Wednesday. She was 84 years old.

"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," her family said in a statement. "The cause was cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend."

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Albright is known for her work in former President Bill Clinton's administration, having helped "steer Western foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War," CNN reports. She served first as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations before becoming secretary of state during Clinton's second term in 1996.

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As the nation's top diplomat, she pushed for the expansion of NATO, championed democracy and human rights worldwide, and looked to reduce nuclearization, CNN and NBC News note.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Medal of Freedom. She was a native of Prague.

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