'A woman's touch in foreign affairs'? The career of ambassador frances E. Willis

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Abstract

Although women have now attained the top ranks of American foreign policymaking, we know relatively little about the early history of American women diplomats, and even less about one of the most important: Frances E. Willis (1899-1983), the first woman chief of mission to have emerged from the career Foreign Service. This article seeks to help fill this gap by tracing Willis' career; suggesting how she succeeded; and exploring how she approached 'the women's issue'. It argues, in part, that Willis' success stemmed from the influence of mentors; her competence, perfectionism, and self-confidence; and her refusal to make an issue of her sex. These survival strategies notwithstanding, it also concludes that Willis exhibited gender-consciousness, took pride in her accomplishments as a woman, and knowingly pursued low-key, moderate means towards feminist ends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalDiplomacy and Statecraft
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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