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MAY 2015


A Foreign Service spouse reflects on her experiences during the

1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when struggles for independence from

colonial rule exploded throughout the developing world.


Editor’s Note: Patricia Bamman Norland passed away inMay 2014 at

the age of 94 (her obituary appears in the

September 2014 FSJ

).Wife of

the late Ambassador Donald Norland, she accompanied her husband to

posts abroad for 30 years and is the mother of three children who gradu-

ated fromGeorgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and them-

selves became diplomats. This article is excerpted from an unpublished

essay Mrs. Norland wrote in 1982 that her daughter Patricia (Kit), a

career FSO presently serving in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural

Affairs, recently shared with the




he life of a Foreign Service spouse

offers one of the more interesting

and rewarding pursuits—not without

moments of sheer horror to be sure,

but satisfying and raptly absorbing.

That remains true today, in 1982,

as the Foreign Service undergoes a

period of strain and change. Salaries,

never excessive, have fallen behind

in the upper grades; and, as always, many choice diplomatic

posts go to non-career appointees. Faced with this prospect, a

number of good officers in their middle years are reassessing

their onward opportunities and the advisability of remaining

indefinitely among the “genteel poor” as school tuition and

other expenses mount.

For wives, in particular, Foreign Service life presents new

WomenWhoMake a Difference:

Reflections of a Foreign

Service Wife in 1982


problems. Most young wives now are interested in careers of

their own, both for their personal satisfaction and, increas-

ingly, to supplement the family income. However, pursuing a

career in law or biochemistry in Ouagadougou is not a simple


Moreover, some young wives are not interested in—or do

not have time for—the social aspects of diplomatic life: the

entertaining or the philanthropic projects which have long been

considered valuable contributions to the U.S. image abroad. The

question has even been tentatively broached as to whether the

diplomatic social round is any longer truly effective.

Perhaps the most dramatic change of all is in the physical

danger that now lurks in many a foreign assignment; in the

modern world, diplomats and their families are on the firing

line. Few will soon forget the national trauma of the seizure of

American hostages in Iran. During these years of change and

upheaval abroad, hundreds of Americans have been evacuated

from besieged embassies, and the list of U.S. diplomats killed in

the line of duty is still growing: Ambassador Cleo Noel and his

deputy, Curt Moore, in Khartoum; Ambassador Frank Meloy in

Lebanon; Ambassador Adolf “Spike” Dubs in Afghanistan; and

others in our far-flung missions.

Young Foreign Service officers and their spouses are appar-

ently thinking twice about serving in these areas, as well they

might. The very value of the Foreign Service itself is being ques-

tioned: Would skeleton staffs and electronic diplomacy suffice?