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Cracking the Glass Ceiling: A Conversation with Foreign Service Women

Despite their education and background, women Foreign Service Officers in the 1950s and 60s faced discrimination and were often treated like second-class citizens. Even in the late 1960s, some ambassadors would object to a woman being posted to their embassies while female FSOs were sometimes expected to act as social secretary to the Ambassador’s wife. […]

Wives and Women in the Foreign Service: The Creation of the Family Liaison Office

A 1957 State Department publication of “Suggestions for Wives from Other Foreign Service Wives” introduced the idea that the main occupational role for wives was the support of their husbands. While never written into the formal regulations of the State Department, it was common practice for women employed in the Foreign Service to resign once […]

The Palmer Case and the Changing Role of Women in the Foreign Service

There have been a number of prominent women who have served in the State Department over the past century:  Francis Willis, the first female career Foreign Service Officer to become ambassador; Clare Booth Luce, a political appointee as Ambassador to Italy; Constance Ray Harvey, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom for her  work during World […]

The Beijing Conference on Women

“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”—First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton At the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women, which was held from September 4-15, 1995, several countries united in support […]

Soldiers, Please do not Touch the Ukrainian Women

Every November 10th, the United States Marine Corps celebrates its birthday with a traditional ball and cake-cutting ceremony. The first formal ball was celebrated in 1925 and by tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines […]

Women in the Foreign Service – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

It is remarkable to think that there have been three female Secretaries of State in the last 15 years.  However, the Foreign Service was not always so accommodating to women. Times were quite different in the Mad Men era — including the assumption that women should resign from the Service once they got married — […]

A Not-So-Quiet Arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) must constantly be on alert for security threats, which can sneak up during the most unexpected times. Oftentimes when FSOs arrive at a new post, they may expect to be greeted by friendly faces who are ready to welcome them to their new country. However, even these simple, lively occasions can […]

Building a Country from Scratch—The South Sudanese Transition to Independence (2005-2011)

Creating a country ex nihilo is never an easy feat. How does one construct functional government institutions from scratch in a land that has been in conflict for decades? Ethnic tensions and former colonial administrations make this uphill battle even steeper. South Sudan faced this very situation after signing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). […]

The Emperor’s New Year’s Day Party

With brightly colored clothes and impeccable attention to protocol, Foreign Service spouse Hilda Lewis hoped to impress at the Japanese Emperor’s 1955 New Year’s reception at the Imperial Palace. As she felt her hat slowly slipping off her head while she bowed to the empress, Lewis knew everything wasn’t going quite according to plan. Despite […]