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MARCH 2016




Maxine Desilet’s letters home, accented by excerpts from her efficiency reports,

paint a vivid picture of life in the postwar Foreign Service.


Suzanne Cofer is a retired public school teacher and a former local elected official who lives in Lacey, Washington, with her hus-

band. Since her 2010 retirement, she has undertaken various writing projects. Maxine Desilet Dickerson, who served in the Foreign

Service from 1949 to 1955, was Cofer’s godmother and paternal aunt. As a young woman, Cofer discovered a collection of her aunt’s

letters from 1936 to 1956 stored in a large box at her grandmother’s home. The story the letters told inspired Cofer to accept a teach-

ing position in Australia and see the world. Dickerson’s son Jeff gave the letters to Cofer, knowing she loved them and would help share them with

a wider audience. Photos and images are courtesy of Suzanne Cofer.

On Assignment with

Maxine Desilet,



axine Desilet (1918-2000) applied

for the U.S. Foreign Service in

August 1945. For various reasons,

including hiring freezes, it was

four years before she joined. She

applied in Philadelphia, where

she had been working during

World War II as an administra-

tive assistant with the U.S. Signal

Corps. After the war, she returned home to Lewiston, Idaho.

On Feb. 16, 1949, Desilet received a telegram from the

Foreign Service offering her a stenographer position. She was

reminded that she would need to meet standards in clerical

tests when she arrived in Washington, D.C. She would have to

demonstrate a shorthand speed of 100 words per minute and a

typing speed of at least 50 words per minute.

After resigning her existing position and attending to per-

sonal affairs, she reported to Washington, D.C., on April 1, 1949.

She considered herself lucky, because during the postwar years

thousands were applying to join the U.S. Foreign Service. Her

first posting was to Berlin. What follows are excerpts from her

letters home and her efficiency reports.

Maxine Desilet in Berlin, 1949.