Snapshot: Obama’s Female Ambassadors, Highest Percentage Appointments at 31.6%

Posted: 1:24 am EDT
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The first female ambassador was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first term. She was the first female member of U.S. Congress and the daughter of the 41st Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.

Owen, Ruth (Bryan) (1885-1954) | Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Denmark 1933-1936 (see Wikipedia entry).

During his second term, President Roosevelt appointed a second female ambassador, this time to Norway.

Florence Jaffray (Hurst) Harriman (1870-1967) Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary July 1, 1937-1940 (see Wikipedia entry).

It was not until 1953 under President Eisenhower when the first female Foreign Service Officer was appointed ambassador.  Frances E. Willis was appointed Ambassador to Switzerland in 1953, Ambassador to Norway in 1957, and Ambassador to Sri Lanka in 1961. She was the first female FSO conferred  with the rank of Career Ambassador  on March 20, 1962.

Thanks to Philip for sharing his charts!


2 responses

  1. Check second chart for the breakdown of career and noncareer female ambassadors. You will see that from Roosevelt to Obama, only 11.9% appointed were women. 392 female ambos out of a total of 3303 appointees. The numbers did not go double digit until Carter, and did not get a serious bump up until the Clinton tenure. Bush II had the highest number of appointees in terms of number at 118 during his two terms but Obama is catching up at 116. I anticipate that Obama will be able to pass the Bush II record. We’ll see, there’s 18 months to go.

  2. How many of the women are career vs. political appointees? And how does this compare with male ambassadors? A decade ago, statistics were bad for female career FSOs.