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Conversation with Ambassador Jean Wilkowski

Thu, Jun 30, 2011, 4:30pm - 6:00pm

You are cordially invited to a conversation with 

Ambassador Jean Wilkowski
First US woman ambassador to an African country 
35-year diplomatic career

Thursday, June 30
4:30 PM

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036



Born in an era when few women sought professional careers, Jean 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.

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).

She is the author of Abroad for Her Country: Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service.