I caught the tail end of an interview with Madeleine Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelova) on NPR last night.
Wow, is she a fascinating woman. Born in Czechoslovakia, and the granddaughter of three men and women who were killed in the Holocaust, she ultimated immigrated to the United States with her parents at age eleven, in 1948. If you’re looking for a little inspiration based on the true life tales of a woman and mother who worked, clawed and climbed her way to the proverbial top, read the Wikipedia bio of Albright. Better yet, read her memoir, Madame Secretary: A Memoir. (One example would be that, after her twin daughters were born six weeks prematurely, she took a course in the Russian language to distract herself and was fluent by the time they left the hospital. Not to mention her fluency in English, Czech and French, plus reading/speaking abilities in Polish and Serbo-Croatian.)
Near the end of the interview, as she was describing the difficulties she experienced over the years on her way toward eventually becoming the first female Secretary of State, she said,
“I believe there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” This, of course, drew a huge bout of laughter from the live audience in front of which she was being interviewed. She also went on to claim, “I think every woman’s middle name is ‘guilt’.” She expounded on this by describing career women who feel guilty that they aren’t home with their children more often, and stay-at-home mothers who feel they ought to be doing more with their minds and talents than ‘just caring for the children.’I really respect Albright’s ability to make these two statements. Surely, she would not have ascended to her present position as a notable professor at Georgetown University, a former Secretary of State (do you know, Condoleeza Rice was one of Albright’s former students?) and the country’s chief diplomat, without the tutelage, examples and perhaps even help of other significant women in her life. And Albright, herself, sets the example for generations of women and mothers, both present and yet to come, that we can ‘do more,’ we can do extraordinary things while also being mothers, we can break boundaries and scale new heights, and we must remember to help each other do these things along the way.