In 1997 Madeleine Albright was appointed the first female Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. She was the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government, serving under Clinton’s presidency until 2001.


The Federal government of the United States is comprised of three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive. The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch composed of heads of the federal executive departments, the vice president, and the Secretary of State. The main duties of the Secretary are concerned with foreign policy, which makes this position associated with the functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The United States Cabinet has had 32 female officers throughout its history. The first woman to ever serve in the Cabinet was Frances Perkins, assigned as Secretary of Labor in 1933. Forty-six years later, Patricia Roberts Harris, the first African-American female member of the cabinet, started to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

However, the most senior cabinet position of the Secretary of State was occupied by men until the end of the 20th century. Only in 1997, the first female Secretary of State was appointed by president Bill Clinton, and it was Madeleine Albright.

Albright, born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937, immigrated to the USA with her family in 1948. Her father was a Czech diplomat, and like him, Madeleine showed strong aptitude in political science. Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 with honors, and years later, she earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Having built a bright political career, Madeleine Albright became the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government history as the Secretary of State serving from 1997 to 2001.

She made history as the first Secretary of State visiting North Korea, successfully promoted the expansion of NATO into former Soviet countries, and encouraged the NATO intervention during the Kosovo Crisis in 1999. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by ex-president Barack Obama for her invaluable contribution to the U.S. International relations.