Women in the Foreign Service — go own the night like the Fourth of July!

Updated: Mar 10, 2014 10:36 am PST: Clarified post to indicate that the WHA Assistant Secretary is a career CS, and added links to the bios of the five assistant secretaries on state.gov.

— Domani Spero

Lucile Atcherson was the first woman in the Foreign Service. She passed the Diplomatic Service examination in 1922 with the third-highest score, and was appointed a secretary in the Diplomatic Service on December 5, 1922. She was assigned as Third Secretary of the Legation in Berne, Switzerland, on April 11, 1925. She resigned on September 19, 1927, in order to get married.

Via the National Archives Text Message blog:

Lucile Atcherson was born in October 1894 in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1913 and subsequently did graduate and research work at Ohio State University and the University of Chicago. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement and during World War I worked overseas in the American Committee of Devastated France. She spoke French, German, and Spanish.

Atcherson began her quest to join the American diplomatic corps in 1921, enlisting the support of political leaders in her home state of Ohio. Department of State officials tried to steer her towards a clerk position where her war relief experience might be helpful. Instead, in May 1921, she applied for a position as a Diplomatic Secretary (a secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the time was one of importance; secretaries performed substantive work, not clerical duties, under the direction of the chief of mission). Her application was accepted and she subsequently passed the July 1922 Diplomatic Service examination, at which point she was placed on the list of those eligible for appointment.

Click here to see Ms. Atcherson’s December 5, 1922 job offer.

Source: Lucile Atcherson; Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO

Source: Lucile Atcherson; Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO

But baby, you’re a firework!

Other firsts:

Pattie H. Field was the first woman to enter the Foreign Service after passage of the Rogers Act. She was sworn in on April 20, 1925, served as a Vice Consul at Amsterdam, and resigned on June 27, 1929, to accept a job with the National Broadcasting Company.

First woman to head a geographic bureau: Rozanne Ridgway (FSO), Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs (1985).

Carol C. Laise was the first female FSO to become an Assistant Secretary of State.  No career female FSO has ever been appointed higher than the position of Assistant Secretary of State.  But for the first time ever, women are leading five of the six geographic bureaus in the State Department: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, AF; Victoria Nuland, EUR; Anne Patterson, NEA, all career Foreign Service;  Roberta Jacobson, WHA (career Civil Service) and Nisha Biswal Desa, SCA (formerly with USAID and HFAC).

How about career ambassadors?

Below via history.state.gov:

The class of Career Ambassador was first established by an Act of Congress on Aug 5, 1955, as an amendment to the Foreign Service act of 1946 (P.L. 84-250; 69 Stat. 537). Under its provisions, the President with the advice and consent of the Senate was empowered to appoint individuals to the class who had (1) served at least 15 years in a position of responsibility in a government agency, including at least 3 years as a Career Minister; (2) rendered exceptionally distinguished service to the government; and (3) met other requirements prescribed by the Secretary of State. Under the 1980 Foreign Service Act (P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2084), which repealed the 1946 Act as amended, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. 

This very small class of career diplomats accorded the personal rank of Career Ambassador has 55 members since its inception in 1955; seven are women, only three are in active service.

  • Frances Elizabeth Willis (Appointed to rank of career ambassador: March 20, 1962) Deceased July 23, 1983. She was the first female Foreign Service Officer to become an Ambassador; she was appointed to Switzerland in 1953, Norway in 1957 and Sri Lanka in 1961.
  • Mary A. Ryan (Appointed career ambassador: March 25, 1999); Deceased April 25, 2006.
  • Ruth A. Davis (Appointed career ambassador: April 1, 2002). Retired from the State Department in February 2009; recently a member of the AFSA Working Group on COM Guidelines.
  • A. Elizabeth Jones (Appointed career ambassador: October 12, 2004). Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near Eastern Affairs, June 2012/13.
  • Anne Woods Patterson (Appointed career ambassador: June 6, 2008). Confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in December 2013.
  • Nancy Jo Powell (Appointed career ambassador: January 3, 2011). Appointed U.S. Ambassador to India in February 2012.
  • Kristie Ann Kenney (Appointed career ambassador: September 26, 2012). Appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand in December 2010.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson meets with Saudi Interior Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Nayef at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson meets with Saudi Interior Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Nayef at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 11, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. (Photo by U.S. Consulate General in Chennai)

U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. (Photo by U.S. Consulate General in Chennai)

Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William Brownfield and Ambassador Kristie Kenney visited the Wildlife Forensic Science Unit at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. There, they observed the scientists at work, who were trained under the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) Program, funded by USAID Asia and implemented by the FREELAND Foundation.

US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney with her husband, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William Brownfield during a visit to the Wildlife Forensic Science Unit at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. There, they observed the scientists at work, who were trained under the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) Program, funded by USAID Asia and implemented by the FREELAND Foundation. September 2013.                   Photo via US Embassy Bangkok

FSO Margot Carrington wrote about the state of women in the Foreign Service in 2013 in FSJ:

After starting from a low base (due, in part, to a longstanding policy requiring female FSOs to resign upon marriage), by 1990 women comprised just 13 percent of the Senior Foreign Service—even though they represented 25 percent of the Foreign Service generalist corps. The proportion of women in the senior ranks gradually rose, but took until 2005 to break the 30-percent mark. The number has hovered there ever since, even though women now make up 40 percent of Foreign Service generalists.

That despite having Madeline K. Albright (64th), Condoleezza Rice (66th) and Hillary Clinton (67th) as Secreatries of State.  Women in the FS have come a long way from the days when they had to quit their jobs just to get married, but there’s work to do. The posts with the highest numbers of female ambassadors still appear to be in Africa. Female U.S.ambassadors  to the G8 countries are registering between 0-1 in stats. We’re guessing career female diplomats get less than zero consideration when it comes to the selection of chiefs of mission in G8 countries. France (male ambassador appointed 65/female ambassador appointed 1) ; Italy (47/1); Japan 41/1); UK (68/1);Canada (31/0); Germany (49/0) and Russia (73/0).

Additional readings below via U.S. Diplomacy:

Also check out Challenges facing women in overseas diplomatic positions (2004), the Women in Diplomacy page of state.gov, and UKFCO’s Ambassadors in high heels.

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US Embassy Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH370, USS Pinckney to Join Search Efforts

– Domani Spero

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines released a statement that it is still unable to establish any contact or determine the whereabouts of flight MH370. Other details below:

  • Subang ATC had lost contact with the aircraft at 2.40am. The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).
  • MH370 is a Boeing 777-200 aircraft on a code share with China Southern Airlines. It departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am today for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time. The flight had a total number of 227 passengers and 12 crew members. The passengers were from 14 different countries, most of whom are from China.
  • An international search and rescue mission was mobilized this morning. At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage.
  • For the passenger manifest of MH370, click here.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur released the following statement regarding the missing plane. (full statement here):

The U.S. Embassy is closely following the developments regarding Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of those on board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

At this time, we can confirm that three U.S. citizens were on board.  We are in contact with the individuals’ families.  Out of respect for them, we are not providing additional information at this time. We are working to assess whether additional U.S. citizens may have been on board the flight.
[…]
Malaysia Airlines has established dedicated phone numbers for family members and friends of passengers to contact the airline directly for information.  Family and friends should contact the airline at +603 8787 126 or +603 87871629.  The airline is also providing updates to the general public on its website, http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/hq/en.html.

US Embassy KL also announced that USS Pinckney has been sent to assist in the search efforts:

The United States Navy Seventh Fleets is sending the USS Pinckney, along with a P-3C aircraft to assist in search efforts. The USS Pinckney (DDG 91), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is en route to the southern coast of Vietnam to aid in the search efforts.  The ship could be in vicinity of the missing jet within 24 hours and carries two MH-60R helicopters which can be equipped for search and rescue.  In addition, A P-3C Orion aircraft will also depart shortly from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan bringing long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transits San Diego Bay. Pinckney helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and humanitarian/disaster response within U.S. 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile area of responsibility in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Todd C. Behrman/Released)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transits San Diego Bay. Pinckney helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and humanitarian/disaster response within U.S. 3rd Fleet’s 50-million square mile area of responsibility in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Todd C. Behrman/Released)

According to the U.S. Navy, USS Pinckney was conducting training and maritime security operations in international waters of the South China Sea.

Also, U.S. officials are reportedly investigating terrorism concerns after two people listed as passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet turned out not to be on the plane and had reported their passports stolen in Thailand.

The passports stolen were from nationals of Italy and Austria; both countries are in the U.S. visa waiver program.

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