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. Madeleine 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
“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
“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 UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development in Vienna.” —Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
"Ambassador Wilkowski has written a fully personal memoir around her years in the Foreign Service. She played a major role in opening the Service to women at a time when changing the old culture ran into its most formidable roadblocks. She was our first woman Ambassador in Africa. This book provides fascinating insights into what that pioneering journey looked like from the inside from a person with great determination, strong personal faith, and the grit and guts to overcome silly and outdated barriers along the way. She writes lucidly, movingly and entertainingly of her life experiences in one of world's most interesting careers." —Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations
"This is an enjoyable read on many levels. It captures the path of a breakthrough member of the American foreign service. It descirbes in detail the nature of the work, the social dynamics, the forms of relaxation and mutual support, and the nature of the crises faced. Jean Wilkowski is proud of her achievements, and rightly so, but she also indicates the mistakes she made along the way and how she learned from her experiences." —Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame