The Foreign Service Journal, June 2020

Partners in the Service FOREIGN SERVICE WIVES A CENTURY AGO THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2020 41 FS HERITAGE Foreign Service spouses have always played a critical role in U.S. diplomacy. BY MOL LY M . WOOD I n 1905, Francis Huntington Wilson, “first sec- retary” at the American legation in Tokyo, was anxiously awaiting promotion and transfer to the State Department in Washington, D.C. Frustrated, Wilson “finally dispatched his beautiful and charming wife [Lucy Wilson] to Washington for a personal appeal to her friend, Secretary of War Wil- liam Howard Taft.” Wilson hoped that Lucy Wilson could use her influence with Taft to put in a good word for her husband in Washington political circles. Taft agreed to take Lucy Wilson to meet with the new Sec- retary of State, Elihu Root. A White House aide later reported Molly M. Wood is a professor of history and director of the Honors Program at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. She has published articles on the U.S. Foreign Service and American diplo- mats and diplomacy in academic journals such as Diplomatic History and is currently completing a book manuscript on the social and cultural history of the U.S. Foreign Service in the first half of the 20th century. She previously published an article on Lucile Atcherson Curtis, the first American woman to serve in a diplomatic position overseas, in The Foreign Service Journal (July-August 2013). that “when Root saw the Juno-like face of Mrs. Wilson and watched her sweep across the room … his eyes began to waver.” Root met Lucy Wilson alone in his office. Shortly afterward, he appointed Francis Huntington Wilson as “third assistant secre- tary” of State in Washington, D.C. Lucy Wilson was not the only wife to successfully lobby for her diplomat husband in the early years of the 20th century. In 1911, Hallie Rives Wheeler, wife of an American diplomat posted to St. Petersburg, Russia, told President William Howard Taft “that she did not think her husband would live through another winter in St. Petersburg.” After Wheeler left the room, Taft remarked “that none of us statesmen were proof against a pretty woman,” and he directed Secretary of State Philander Knox to transfer the Wheelers to Rome. A Terrific Burden Diplomats themselves recognized the significant role their wives played in the U.S. Foreign Service. Career diplomat Earl Packer explained that “the wives carry a terrific burden” in the Service, while longtime diplomat Willard Beaulac declared: “I know of no field in which a wife can be more helpful.” At a time when the State Department considered “charac- ter,” “ability” and the capacity to “establish and maintain … a position befitting the commanding prestige of the United