Her Excellency: An Oral History of American Women Ambassadors
By Ann Miller Morin
Twayne Publishers, 1995, 315 pp
Changing Differences: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy, 1917-1994
By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Rutgers University Press, 1995, 275 pp
These two books advance the understanding of a neglected topic. Miller Morin's interviews with 15 women ambassadors, including Clare Boothe Luce, Rozanne Ridgway, and Jeane Kirkpatrick, are full of interesting anecdotes of their diplomatic service; the editor acquits herself with skill and aplomb. Jeffreys-Jones' more ambitious survey of the role that women played in shaping American foreign policy is less successful. The author wants to show that women had a significant influence on foreign policy, which is obviously true, but he is loose in his statements of causation: "The end of the East-West confrontation does owe something to the millions of deflating conversations in which women have told men exactly what they thought of their macho war games." The author is less interested in the roles, opinions, and influence of women in all their diversity than in women qua progressive--peace activist--feminists (in the Jane Addams--Eleanor Roosevelt--Bella Abzug line); the cold warriors he discusses, like Margaret Chase Smith, seem under the bar of suspicion for having sold out to patriarchy. The author, however, wants to be fair, and elsewhere admittedly resists this tendency. He objects strenuously, for example, to the depiction of any modern woman leader as "the only man in the cabinet"--a tag that was often given to Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Indira Gandhi. This reviewer would be less inclined to rule out the hypothesis that each of these statespersons displayed, on certain notorious occasions, the advanced symptoms of testosterone poisoning.