The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 81 the Office of Civil Rights) and ini- tial cone assignments, as well as changes relating to assignments, promotions and awards. Change was slow, but women began to stand up for their rights, working both within and outside the system to achieve greater representation among officers. They began to challenge the implicit and explicit biases in the evaluation and pro- motion systems and the requirement that a female FSO had to retire on marriage, among other things. Palmer describes how, while serving in hardship and danger posts in Viet- nam, Ghana, Congo, British Guiana and Ethiopia, she faced down sometimes daily violence in country—such as rescu- ing a U.S. Army warrant officer who had been stabbed by a mob following a car accident—only to return to her office to confront tireless sexism. She also relates compelling stories from the VietnamWar that resulted in her nomination for a Superior Honor Award, and then details how the award was down- graded to a Meritorious Honor Award, a de rigeur practice when it came to awards to female Foreign Service officers. Palmer describes a small-minded trio of ambassadors who were documented refusing Palmer’s appointment at post because of her gender. The third ambas- sador finally relented but, on Palmer’s arrival, informally changed her assign- ment from political officer to social secretary for his wife. Spoiler alert: Though the three ambas- sadors were found guilty of discrimina- tion by the U.S. district court in Washing- ton, D.C., none was ever disciplined or otherwise held accountable by the State Department. Although you can read about Palmer’s story in The New York Times , Washington Grit and Perseverance in the Cause of Equality Diplomat and Priest: One Woman’s Challenge to State and Church Alison Palmer, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, $16.98/paper- back, $6.99/e-book, 493 pages. Reviewed By Andrea Strano Confounded by male colleagues’ disre- gard, discrimination and sexual harass- ment, Foreign Service Officer Alison Palmer spent a restless, 26-year diplo- matic career bucking the State Depart- ment personnel systems in the quest for simple but absolute equality. She continued this battle after retiring in 1981 by seeing a class action lawsuit started in 1976 through to a successful conclusion more than 30 years later, in 2010. Palmer joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1955 and, as she explains, faced gender discrimination “constantly” through- out her career. Courageously serving in conflict zones, she was impatient for equality. In 1968 Palmer filed the first-ever equal employment opportunity com- plaint against the Foreign Service and was awarded a promotion to FS-3 after a finding of discrimination. In 1976, she filed the first class-action lawsuit against the State Department claiming system- atic discrimination against female FSOs. In Diplomat and Priest, Palmer tells the story of this battle. She describes how she, with other women and minorities, used data and documents to fight for equality at the State Department. State dug in its heels and fought against the legal action for decades, but the lawsuit achieved changes in many areas, includ- ing a new performance evaluation form, diversity training, institution of the Coun- sel for Equality in the Workplace (now BOOKS Post and other publica- tions, or go through her personal papers, valued for their historical signifi- cance, at Columbia, Harvard and Brown universities, in Diplomat and Priest Palmer tells the story in her own words. Here the no-nonsense personality of the woman who ultimately banished some inequities in the person- nel system, including disproportionate promotions, reclassification of awards and an unfair performance evaluation form, shines through. Woven throughout the layers of struggle are stories of faith. Palmer gener- ously shares the inspiration for and chal- lenges of being among the first women ordained to the Episcopal priesthood, Bible study groups she led (at the request of the chaplain) for armed soldiers in Vietnam, and quiet, private moments of introspection to contrast the chaos of her assignments and the moral challenges she tackled. Though she never reached the senior ranks of the Foreign Service, Palmer eventually came to be appreciated for her leadership as a change agent. But, as she repeatedly asserts, the equality she fought for continues to elude many State Department employees even today. Looking forward, Palmer challenges both the State Department and the Epis- copal Church to continued action, urging conscious focus on biases rather than resting on good-enough improvements. For the State Department, she presses for a diplomatic corps that mirrors the demographics of the U.S. population and a truly merit-based promotion process to attract and hold onto talent. This very engaging book will appeal to stewards of the professional U.S. diplo- matic corps for its resolute defense of