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Abroad for Her Country

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Selected by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee for Outstanding Achievement for a 2008 publication

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Abroad for Her Country

Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service

Jean M. Wilkowski

In Abroad for Her Country, Jean M. Wilkowski shares the story of her extraordinary career in the U.S. Foreign Service during the last half of the twentieth century. Born in an era when few women sought professional careers, Wilkowski graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the University of Wisconsin and then rose through the ranks at the Department of State, from Vice Consul to the first woman U.S. Ambassador to an African country and the first woman acting U.S. Ambassador in Latin America.

During her thirty-five-year diplomatic career, Wilkowski was sent first as a vice consul to the Caribbean during World War II, when the Department of State was “even taking in 4-Fs and women.” She moved on to more challenging assignments in Latin America and Europe. For much of her career, she specialized in protecting and promoting U.S. trade and investment interests in such posts as Paris, Milan, Rome, Santiago, and Geneva. She also served during a revolution in Bogotá, attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and the war between El Salvador and Honduras, when she called in U.S. humanitarian aid for 50,000 war-displaced persons. In 1977 she became coordinator of the U.S. preparation for the 1979 United Nations Conference on Science and Technology in Vienna. She worked closely with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, head of the U.S. delegation, and accompanied the delegation on its fact-finding visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China.

“A serious and charming autobiography of a pioneer woman diplomat. Madeline and Condi would not have made it to Secretary of State without Ambassador Wilkowski’s courage and skill.” —Donna E. Shalala, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Resources (1993–2001) and currently President, University of Miami

“I highly recommend this wonderful autobiography of Ambassador Jean Wilkowski. She was one of the most distinguished women diplomats in the Department of State and of an enormous help to me when I was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Develoment in Vienna.” —Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.S., President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

“This is a wonderful memoir. I could not put it down. Ambassador Wilkowski writes with wit, candor, and great insight into the ways in which diplomacy is carried out, including the personal aspects of it which are so relevant but rarely disclosed. But most important of all, serving in Latin America, Africa, the UN, and Washington, she lived up to the injunction of one of her early mentors, to bring morality and ethics to government service. Her memoir demonstrates how these can be powerful forces for good, for the world and for America, when people of her strength and character stand up for them.” —Princeton N. Lyman, Council on Foreign Relations 

ISBN: 978-0-268-04413-8
400 pages
Publication Year: 2008

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Jean M. Wilkowski entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1944, accepting career assignments to nine countries on three continents before retiring in 1980. She has received six honorary degrees and is the only woman to receive the Foreign Service Cup from the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired (DACOR).

“This is a fascinating biography of a woman who entered the political arena at a time when few women were accepted. Jean Wilkowski entered the Foreign Service in 1944, . . . [serving] in Paris, Rome, Chile, Columbia, and El Salvador—nine countries on three continents in her thirty-five years of service. . . . Wilkowski tells her extraordinary story with humor and wit. . . . This testament will go far to encourage young women to investigate a career in government service.” — Polish American Journal

“Abroad for Her Country…is the autobiography of Jean M. Wilkowski, with special focus upon her career in the U.S. Foreign Service during the latter half of the twentieth century. Told in candid prose accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Abroad for Her Country is eminently absorbing and highly recommended.” — Wisconsin Bookwatch

“[It] is a fascinating, informative, deftly written autobiography and is especially recommended for academic and community library collections, as well as the personal reading list for anyone with an interest in International Relations in general, and the American diplomatic service in particular.” — Midwest Book Review Bookwatch

“This memoir by former U.S. Ambassador Wilkowski concentrates on how she crossed gender lines to become one of the first female diplomats in both Latin America and Africa. Written for general audiences, this book also includes many photographs taken during Wilkowski’s career.” — Book News

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Abroad for Her Country

Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service

Jean M. Wilkowski

 Abroad for Her Country: Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service
Cloth Edition

In Abroad for Her Country, Jean M. Wilkowski shares the story of her extraordinary career in the U.S. Foreign Service during the last half of the twentieth century. Born in an era when few women sought professional careers, Wilkowski graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the University of Wisconsin and then rose through the ranks at the Department of State, from Vice Consul to the first woman U.S. Ambassador to an African country and the first woman acting U.S. Ambassador in Latin America.

During her thirty-five-year diplomatic career, Wilkowski was sent first as a vice consul to the Caribbean during World War II, when the Department of State was “even taking in 4-Fs and women.” She moved on to more challenging assignments in Latin America and Europe. For much of her career, she specialized in protecting and promoting U.S. trade and investment interests in such posts as Paris, Milan, Rome, Santiago, and Geneva. She also served during a revolution in Bogotá, attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and the war between El Salvador and Honduras, when she called in U.S. humanitarian aid for 50,000 war-displaced persons. In 1977 she became coordinator of the U.S. preparation for the 1979 United Nations Conference on Science and Technology in Vienna. She worked closely with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, head of the U.S. delegation, and accompanied the delegation on its fact-finding visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China.

“A serious and charming autobiography of a pioneer woman diplomat. Madeline and Condi would not have made it to Secretary of State without Ambassador Wilkowski’s courage and skill.” —Donna E. Shalala, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Resources (1993–2001) and currently President, University of Miami

“I highly recommend this wonderful autobiography of Ambassador Jean Wilkowski. She was one of the most distinguished women diplomats in the Department of State and of an enormous help to me when I was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Develoment in Vienna.” —Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.S., President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

“This is a wonderful memoir. I could not put it down. Ambassador Wilkowski writes with wit, candor, and great insight into the ways in which diplomacy is carried out, including the personal aspects of it which are so relevant but rarely disclosed. But most important of all, serving in Latin America, Africa, the UN, and Washington, she lived up to the injunction of one of her early mentors, to bring morality and ethics to government service. Her memoir demonstrates how these can be powerful forces for good, for the world and for America, when people of her strength and character stand up for them.” —Princeton N. Lyman, Council on Foreign Relations 

ISBN: 978-0-268-04413-8

400 pages

“This is a fascinating biography of a woman who entered the political arena at a time when few women were accepted. Jean Wilkowski entered the Foreign Service in 1944, . . . [serving] in Paris, Rome, Chile, Columbia, and El Salvador—nine countries on three continents in her thirty-five years of service. . . . Wilkowski tells her extraordinary story with humor and wit. . . . This testament will go far to encourage young women to investigate a career in government service.” — Polish American Journal

“Abroad for Her Country…is the autobiography of Jean M. Wilkowski, with special focus upon her career in the U.S. Foreign Service during the latter half of the twentieth century. Told in candid prose accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Abroad for Her Country is eminently absorbing and highly recommended.” — Wisconsin Bookwatch

“[It] is a fascinating, informative, deftly written autobiography and is especially recommended for academic and community library collections, as well as the personal reading list for anyone with an interest in International Relations in general, and the American diplomatic service in particular.” — Midwest Book Review Bookwatch

“This memoir by former U.S. Ambassador Wilkowski concentrates on how she crossed gender lines to become one of the first female diplomats in both Latin America and Africa. Written for general audiences, this book also includes many photographs taken during Wilkowski’s career.” — Book News

Selected by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee for Outstanding Achievement for a 2008 publication