Oral History Project

For our FS Clips project, we interviewed Foreign Service family members around the world to capture stories of Foreign Service life as told by those who live it. The series differs from traditional oral histories in that these interviews feature discussions and insights on topics specific to Foreign Service life.

Some of the topics include Foreign Born Spouses, Third Culture Kids, EFM Careers, LGBQTI, and Singles in the Foreign Service, with the goal to expand and add additional topics. You can scroll down to explore the individual transcripts listed below. This oral history project is supported by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation.



About the Oral History Project

The AAFSW Spouse Oral History Collection is housed at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia.

Established in 1986, the Spouse Oral History Collection continues to interest researchers and journalists. The oral histories recount many of the changes that have taken place in spousal or “wife” roles in the Foreign Service. About 150 spouse histories are available on ADST’s website.

These spouse interviews offer a unique glimpse into the important role wives played in the “old” Foreign Service (prior to the 1970s) and beyond. Lesley Dorman gives an overview of her advocacy in establishing the Family Liaison Office (FLO). Ann LaPorta recalls her role of that of a “three stringed instrument: wife, mother and her professional image.” Judy Ikels talks about her evolving career and work in FLO.

The interviews are also a resource for journalists. To note the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Korean conflict, Kristie Miller, Washington correspondent for the LaSalle, IL, News Tribune, based her column on an interview with Patricia Bartz recorded in 1987 and featured in Jewell Fenzi’s Married to the Foreign Service (now out of print, but sometimes available second-hand at the AAFSW Art & Bookfair. Journalist Miller later noted that the experiences of Foreign Service spouses “add a new perspective to U.S. diplomatic history.”

For example, it is interesting to read the late Alice Pickering’s account of the 50th anniversary celebration in Russia in 1994 while her husband, Thomas Pickering, was heading the U.S. mission in Moscow.

Ms. Pickering recalls the 1993 stand-off between Yeltsin and the Duma. The embassy was right in the path of the tanks that Yeltsin put on the bridge, firing at the Duma. It was decided that it was too dangerous to evacuate people out of the compound. As a result, everyone went for cover. While CNN was reporting and photographing outside, more than 95 people, including children, were holed up in the embassy gym! Read more of this, and other, interviews on the ADST website.

If you would like to share your experiences and perspectives, as part of the spouse oral history program, please use the contact form below to get in touch. Let us know you’re interested in the Oral History Project. Thank you!

Conact us using the form below.