Tag Archives: women’s history month

Women’s History Month: Madeleine Albright – First Female Secretary of State

Madeleine AlbrightMadeleine Korbel Albright, sworn in as the 64th United States Secretary of State in 1997, after unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate, became the first female Secretary of State and the highest ranking woman in the United States government. As Secretary of State and as U.S. representative to the United Nations before that, she created policies and institutions to help guide the world into a new century of peace and prosperity.


Concentrating on a bipartisan approach to U.S. foreign policy, she attempted to create a consensus on the need for U.S. leadership and engagement in the world. Among her achievements were ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and progress toward stability in Eastern and Central Europe.

Albright dedicated her life to international study. After receiving her B.A. at Wellesley College, she studied international relations at Johns Hopkins University before earning her M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University. Before her appointment as Secretary of State, she had a diverse career.

A Diverse Career

Albright was Sen. Edward Muskie’s Chief Legislative Assistant; a Woodrow Wilson fellow; president of the Center for National Policy, a nonprofit research organization; and Research Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Women in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. During President Clinton’s first term, Albright served as the United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of Clinton’s National Security Council.

International Relations

As a refugee whose family fled Czechoslovakia, first from the Nazis and later from the Communists, Albright represents the highest ideals and aspirations of immigrants who come to America seeking to make major contributions to our society. As a leader in international relations, she has helped change the course of history and, in so doing, has also set a new standard for American women and for women around the world.

After the election of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1992, Albright’s political star began to rise, and Clinton named her ambassador to the United Nations in 1993. At the UN she gained a reputation for tough-mindedness as a fierce advocate for American interests, and she promoted an increased role for the United States in UN operations, particularly those with a military component. Her nomination to the position of secretary of state was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 1997.

Champion of Democracy and Human Rights

During her tenure in office, Albright remained a proponent of military intervention and a forceful champion of both democracy and human rights. Notably, in 1999 she pushed for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombings in Yugoslavia to halt the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serbian forces. The Kosovo conflict, which some came to call Madeleine’s War, ended after 11 weeks of air strikes, when Yugoslavia agreed to NATO’s terms. Albright was also involved in efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear program, and in 2000 she became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the country. However, her talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il failed to produce a deal.

The Albright Group

At the end of Bill Clinton’s second term in 2001, Albright left government service and founded the Albright Group, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. She later supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bids in 2008 and 2016. In the latter campaign, Albright drew criticism when she said that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” a sentiment she had often expressed over several decades. However, some believed she was implying that gender was the only consideration when choosing a candidate, and she later clarified her comments.

After leaving the Secretary of State post in 2001, she authored several bestsellers, launched a private investment fund, and provided global strategy consulting. In 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Drawn To Public Service

Before Dr. Albright, the inner sanctum of U.S. foreign policymaking had been an almost exclusively male domain. In many ways, her politically fraught early life — enduring Nazi and communist repression — impelled her rise to the highest levels of international politics.

Her family, which was Jewish, narrowly avoided extermination at the hands of the Nazis. They fled to England shortly after Hitler’s tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1938.

“I had this feeling that there but for the grace of God, we might have been dead,” Dr. Albright said much later. She said that she was drawn to public service to “repay the fact that I was a free person.”

Her ascent in the foreign policy establishment reflected the traditional roles of women in the 1950s and 1960s and her ambition, which was influenced by the nascent feminist movement that encouraged women to pursue professional careers.

Madeleine K. Albright, who came to the United States as an 11-year-old political refu­gee from Czechoslovakia and decades later was an ardent and effective advocate against mass atrocities in Eastern Europe while serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the first female secretary of state, died March 23 in Washington. She was 84.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.


Albright, Madeleine Korbel



Women’s History Month: Janet Reno – The First Woman Attorney General Of The United States

Janet RenoArticle Courtesy of the New York Times
By Carl Hulse

Janet Reno, rose from a rustic life on the edge of the Everglades to become attorney general of the United States — the first woman to hold the job — and whose eight years in that office placed her in the middle of some of the most divisive episodes of the Clinton presidency.

Major Events During Her Tenure

Ms. Reno’s tenure as attorney general was bracketed by two explosive events: a deadly federal raid on the compound of a religious cult in Waco, Tex., in 1993, and in 2000 the government’s seizing of Elián González, a young Cuban refugee who was at the center of an international custody battle and a political tug of war.

In those moments and others, Ms. Reno was applauded for displaying integrity and a willingness to accept responsibility, but she was also fiercely criticized. Republicans accused her of protecting President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore when, in 1997, she refused to allow an independent counsel to investigate allegations of fund-raising improprieties in the White House.

After leaving office, she mounted a surprise though unsuccessful bid in Florida in 2002 to unseat Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of President George W. Bush, amid the resentment of Cuban-Americans in South Florida over her negotiating for the return of Elián to Cuba.

Never Part Of The Inner Circle

Ms. Reno was never part of the Clinton inner circle, even though she served in the Clinton cabinet for two terms, longer than any attorney general in the previous 150 years. She was a latecomer to the team, and her political and personal style clashed with the president’s, particularly as she sought to maintain some independence from the White House.

Her relations with the president were further strained by her decision to let an independent inquiry into a failed Clinton land deal in Arkansas, the so-called Whitewater investigation, expand to encompass Mr. Clinton’s sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky, an episode that led to his impeachment.

Mr. Clinton and his allies thought that Ms. Reno was too quick to refer to special counsels in the Lewinsky matter and other cases of suspect administration behavior. The president let her dangle in the public eye for weeks before announcing in December 1996, after his resounding re-election, that she would remain for his second term.

Doing The Right Thing

Ms. Reno was never a natural fit in Washington’s backslapping, competitive culture. At weekly news conferences, held in the barrel-vaulted conference room outside her office in the Justice Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue, she was fond of telling reporters that she would “do the right thing” on legal issues and judge them according to “the law and the facts.”

Imposing at 6-foot-1, awkward in manner and blunt in her probity, she became a regular foil for late-night comics and a running gag on “Saturday Night Live.” But she got the joke, proving it by gamely appearing on the show to lampoon her image.

The comedy could not obscure her law-enforcement accomplishments. Ms. Reno presided over the Justice Department in a time of economic growth, falling crime rates and mounting security threats to the nation by forces both foreign and domestic.

Law Enforcement Accomplishments

Under Ms. Reno, the agency initiated prosecutions in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, helping to lay the groundwork for the pursuit of terrorists in the 21st century.

The Reno Justice Department also prosecuted spies like the C.I.A. mole Aldrich H. Ames; it filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft, a milestone in the new-technology era; and it sued the tobacco industry to reclaim federal health care dollars spent on treating illnesses caused by smoking.

Ms. Reno was a strong advocate of guaranteeing federal protection to women seeking abortions and safeguarding abortion clinics that were under threat.

But in some areas, she seemed conflicted about the law. She opposed the death penalty, for example, but repeatedly authorized her prosecutors to ask juries to impose it.

When she took office, she endorsed the use of independent counsels to investigate administration figures. But she later testified against renewing the law governing their use, saying it did nothing to take politics out of the inquiries.

Before becoming attorney general, Ms. Reno was the Dade County state attorney for 14 years, when the Miami area was growing rapidly and experiencing rising drug-related crime, widening racial divisions, demoralizing police corruption, and waves of immigration from Cuba.

Clinton’s Third Choice

Mr. Clinton, committed to appointing a woman as attorney general, settled on Ms. Reno after his first two choices — the corporate lawyer Zoë Baird and the federal judge Kimba Wood — withdrew their names in the face of criticism after it was disclosed that they had employed undocumented immigrants as nannies.

“I’m just delighted to be here, and I’m going to try my level best,” Ms. Reno said at the Rose Garden ceremony at which Mr. Clinton announced her nomination on Feb. 11, 1993.

Two months later, she gained the nation’s full attention in a dramatic televised news conference in which she took full responsibility for a botched federal raid of the Waco compound of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventists.

The assault, after a long siege involving close to 900 military and law-enforcement personnel and a dozen tanks, left the compound in flames and the group’s charismatic leader, David Koresh, and about 75 others dead. A third of the dead were children.

Ms. Reno’s candor was viewed as refreshing in a city where blame-shifting is the norm, and it gave her sudden celebrity status in the new administration.

The luster faded quickly. Within weeks, Ms. Janet Reno faced tough questions about the raid and her claim that children were being abused at the compound. She was also faulted for failing to influence an important crime bill. By the end of her first year in office, she was facing mounting scrutiny in the news media.

Pressed By Republicans

With Mr. Clinton’s re-election and his decision to keep Ms. Janet Reno at her post, Republicans began questioning her independence when she resisted their calls for a special counsel to look into allegations that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore had broken campaign fund-raising laws in 1996.

The clamor, led by the House speaker, Newt Gingrich, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, grew when it was disclosed that Louis J. Freeh, the head of the F.B.I., also favored a special counsel.

Ms. Reno would not budge, saying her stance had nothing to do with protecting the president. A review of the evidence, she said, convinced her that a special counsel was not warranted.

“Let me be absolutely clear,” Ms. Reno told hostile Republican questioners during one of several hearings on Capitol Hill about the call for a special counsel. “I’m not going to violate my oath in this matter because of pressure from any quarter, not from the media, not from Congress, nor from anywhere else.”

Questions about her handling of the Waco raid resurfaced in 1999, when new evidence suggested that the F.B.I. might have started the fire that destroyed the compound.

The disclosure further soured her dealings with Mr. Freeh — a relationship that had been close early in her tenure but had grown tortured by 1999. He let it be known that he favored a special counsel in the fund-raising case and a new inquiry into Waco. She sent marshals to F.B.I. headquarters to seize a tape of communications made the day of the assault.

Her final and perhaps most personal crisis as head of the Justice Department was the case involving Elián González, the 6-year-old Cuban boy who was found floating on an inner tube off the coast of Florida after his mother and 10 others had drowned in a failed crossing from Cuba by small boat.

The boy became a unifying figure among Cuban exiles in South Florida, who were determined to see him remain in the United States in defiance of the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

Ms. Reno favored returning Elián to his father in Cuba, and she became immersed in negotiations over his fate because of her ties to Miami.

Ms. Reno was on the phone almost up to the moment agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service burst into the Miami home of Elián’s relatives and took him away at gunpoint. Congressional Republicans and many Cuban exiles were outraged. Some in Miami said Ms. Reno would be in danger if she returned there after her service in Washington.

Early in 2001, however, she did go home, her service finished. She said she was excited about a red pickup truck she had bought.

A Name Picked From a Map

Janet Reno was born in Miami, on the edge of the Everglades, on July 21, 1938, to Henry Olaf Reno and the former Jane Wood. Her father, born Henry Rasmussen in Denmark, came to the United States in 1913 with his own mother and father, who chose the name Reno off a map, believing it sounded more American.

Henry Reno was a police reporter in Dade County for more than 40 years. Jane Reno, born in Georgia, was an eccentric naturalist who would have a profound effect on Ms. Reno.

“Outspoken, outrageous, absolutely indifferent to others’ opinions, Jane Reno was truly one of a kind,” Paul Anderson, a former Miami Herald reporter, wrote in his biography of Janet Reno. It was her mother who had wrestled small alligators, though the stunt was sometimes erroneously ascribed to the daughter.

Ms. Reno, the eldest of four siblings, was about 8 when her parents bought 21 acres bordering the Everglades and moved there. Her mother, who had no construction experience, built the family home. “She dug the foundation with her own hands, with a pick and shovel,” Ms. Reno told senators at her confirmation hearing in 1993.

It was a rustic life; peacocks and other creatures roamed the property, and Janet and her siblings — Robert, Mark and Margaret — cavorted barefoot. But she also glimpsed a more sophisticated world: After junior high school, she traveled to Europe to stay with an uncle, a military judge, as he presided over a spy trial.

Besides her sister, who is known as Maggy, Ms. Reno is survived by seven nieces and nephews. Her brother Robert, a former columnist for Newsday on Long Island, died in 2012 at 72. Her brother Mark had an adventurer’s life: game warden, boat and oil supply ship captain, alligator wrestler, scuba diver, paratrooper as well as carpenter and bailiff at the Miami-Dade Justice Building. He died in 2014, also at 72.

After finishing high school in Miami, Ms. Reno attended Cornell University, graduating in 1960 with a degree in chemistry. She won admission to Harvard Law School and graduated in 1963, one of a handful of women in her class of more than 500.

Seeking to practice law in South Florida, Ms. Reno was turned down by one of the state’s best-known law firms, Steel Hector & Davis, and went to work for a smaller firm instead. She became active in local Democratic politics and met a fellow Harvard graduate, Gerald Lewis, a lawyer with electoral aspirations. Ms. Reno helped him win a State House seat in 1966, and the two opened a general-practice law firm together.

Ms. Reno entered government service in 1971 as general counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, where she worked on a difficult overhaul of Florida’s courts. Her work in Tallahassee, the capital, whetted her appetite for public office, and she campaigned for a state legislative seat of her own the next year. She lost in an upset to a Republican candidate helped by the landslide re-election victory of President Richard M. Nixon.

Ms. Janet Reno did not wait long for her next opportunity. The day after her defeat, Richard Gerstein, the state attorney for Dade County, offered her a job on his staff. As she told The Miami Herald, she expressed reservations in her characteristically straightforward manner.

“My father was always convinced you were a crook,” she said she told Mr. Gerstein. “And I’ve always been a critic of yours.”

Mr. Gerstein replied that those were the reasons he wanted to hire her. Within a few years, she was Mr. Gerstein’s chief assistant.

Ms. Reno left the prosecutor’s office in May 1976 to join Steel Hector & Davis, the firm that had rejected her out of law school. But her tenure there was short.

After Mr. Gerstein announced that he would resign in early 1978, after 21 years in the office, Gov. Reubin Askew appointed Ms. Reno interim state attorney, choosing her from about 50 candidates. She was the first woman to hold the title of state attorney in Florida and one of the few in the nation’s history to be responsible for such a large jurisdiction.

Ms. Reno retained the post through a thicket of drug, murder and corruption cases. In one, she was accused of being antipolice when she prosecuted five Miami officers in the beating death of a black insurance executive after a traffic stop; the officers, she said, had tried to make it look like an accident.

The officers were acquitted — one by the presiding judge in the trial, held in Tampa, and the others by an all-white jury — provoking criticism of her legal strategy and four days of deadly riots in Miami’s predominantly black Liberty City neighborhood.

To quell the furor, Ms. Janet Reno undertook an outreach effort that restored some support among Miami’s black citizens. She remained state attorney through five election campaigns — until February 1993, when the White House called.

Ms. Janet Reno was formally nominated to be attorney general that month, just a few weeks after the death of her mother, Jane, the guiding influence in her life. She invoked her mother’s memory in her remarks that day at the Rose Garden ceremony with Mr. Clinton.

“My mother always told me to do my best,” she said, “to think my best and to do right.”

In addition to her work as litigator and public servant, Janet Reno was a founding director of the Innocence Project. She died from Parkinson’s disease on November 7, 2016.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.


Reno, Janet

Women’s History Month: Lyda Burton Conley – America’s First Native American Woman Lawyer.















Courtesy of WomensHistory.org

By: Emma Rothberg, NWHM Predoctoral Fellow in Gender Studies I 2020-2022

Standing before the Supreme Court, Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley argued to protect her ancestral burial ground. Considered the Guardian of Heron Indian Cemetery, her appearance made her the third woman, and the first Native American, to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. For her, this case was personal.

Early Years

Eliza Burton Conley was born sometime between 1868 and 1869 to Eliza Burton Zane Conley, a member of the Wyandotte tribe and descendant of a chief, and Andrew Conley, an English farmer in Kansas. Conley was one of four sisters. The Wyandotte were sometimes controversially called “Huron,” hence the name of the cemetery. A very active and independent young woman, she and one of her sisters would row across the river every day to attend school at Park College. During her lifetime, she became a lawyer, was admitted to the Missouri Bar, trained as a telegraphic operator, taught at Spalding Business College in Kansas City, and taught Sunday School at her Methodist Episcopal Church. She did all of this before women had the right to vote in the United States. 

Admitted to Missouri Bar and Kansas Bar

Conley is most well known for her attempts to protect the Huron Indian Cemetery located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. As Kansas City developed, the cemetery’s land became prime real estate. Conley— whose mother, sister, and hundreds of her Wyandotte tribesmen were buried in the cemetery—paid close attention to discussions around the land. Realizing the potential threats against the land, Conley entered the Kansas City School of Law in preparation to fight for its protection. She graduated as one of the only women in her class and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1902.  She was reportedly also admitted to the Kansas Bar in 1910.

Protecting Her Heritage

In 1906, Congress approved legislation to sell the land and move the bodies buried there. As a lawyer, Conley filed a permanent injunction against the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Indian Commissioners in U.S. District Court to prevent the sale. As a private citizen, Conley and one of her sisters, Helena, built a shack, known as “Fort Conley,” at the entrance to the cemetery, padlocked the gate, and hung a sign that warned against trespassers. As her lawsuit went through the courts, Conley and her sister guarded their family and ancestors’ graves day in and day out with a shotgun.   

In a 1906 interview, Conley said, “I will go to Washington and personally defend” the cemetery. She continued, “no lawyer could plead for the grave of my mother as I could, no lawyer could have the heart interest in the case that I have.” When asked by the interviewer if she could win, Conley smiled and responded, “If I lose, then I will admit that the constitution of the United States is as Greek to me.”

Appearing BeforeThe Supreme Court

When Conley appeared before the Supreme Court on January 14, 1910, she formally represented herself as the named plaintiff. She argued that the 1855 federal treaty with the Wyandotte prevented the U.S. from selling the land and that the descendants of those who signed the treaty had the right to enforce it. Despite her arguments, the Supreme Court argued the government had the right to sell the land. Conley and her sister were not discouraged, and continued guarding the cemetery.

Threat Of Development

While she lost in court, she won the longer battle to protect the cemetery. Her actions got the notice of Kansas state senator Charles Curtis. In 1913, Curtis wrote and passed a law protecting the cemetery from future development. Yet the threat of development was still there and Conley kept up the fight. She tried to get an injunction against the city in 1918, was arrested several times for interfering with city officials who she felt were disrespecting the graves, and in the 1930s spent 10 days in jail on a trespass charge for protecting the cemetery. In her later life, Conley and her sister continued to spend most of their time around the cemetery, near the graves of their sister and mother.

National Historic Landmark – Huron Indian Cemetery

Conley was murdered during a robbery in 1946. She is buried in the Huron Indian Cemetery next to her sister, Helena, and 400-600 other bodies. Many of the graves remain unmarked. Others, inspired by her determination to save the cemetery, kept up the fight. In 1971, the Huron Indian Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, the cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark, officially preventing any development from happening on the site.  

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.


MLA – Rothberg, Emma. “Lyda Conley.” National Women’s History Museum, 2020. Date accessed.

Chicago – Rothberg, Emma. “Lyda Conley.” National Women’s History Museum. 2020. www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/lyda-conley.