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Molly M. Wood is a professor of history at Wittenberg University in Springfeld, Ohio, and a past president of the Ohio Academy of History.
Her many articles about the history of the U.S. Foreign Service include “Diplomacy and Gossip: Information-Gathering in the U.S. Foreign
Service, 1900-1940,” which will be published in the forthcoming book,
When Private Talk Goes Public: Gossip in United States History;
“‘Commanding Beauty’ and ‘Gentle Charm’: American Women and Gender in the Early Twentieth Century Foreign Service”(
Diplomatic History,
June 2007). Her article in the June 2005 issue of the
Journal of Women’s History,
“Diplomatic Wives: Te Politics of Domesticity and ‘the Social
Game’ in the U.S. Foreign Service, 1905-1941,” was reprinted in 2007 in
Ten Best American History Essays
. She is currently completing a book
Te Women and Men of the U.S. Foreign Service, 1890-1940: A Social and Cultural History of Diplomatic Representation.
Tis article is based on the recently opened Lucile Atcherson Curtis Papers at Te Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of
Women in America in the Radclife Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. A Schlesinger Library Research Grant funded her initial
research in this collection, and she wishes to acknowledge the Schlesinger Library for permission to quote from those papers.
War in Europe
Frederick W. Atcherson tolerated his daughter’s work for
the sufrage organization, up to a point. But when he con-
cluded that she was becoming too involved, he decided to
distract her by arranging a fve-month European tour for Atch-
erson and her mother, even though it was a fnancial strain for
the family. Her father’s strategy backfred, however. Not only
Smith College. It was expensive for the family, and a long way
from home, but her parents accepted the recommendation.
Tinking back on those years, Atcherson, who was consid-
erably younger than most of the other students, recalled being
homesick much of the time, but also felt that the experience
at Smith “opened, in a new way,” the world to her. Tere she
studied economics, French, German, Latin, political science
and sociology, among other subjects.
After graduating in 1913, at age 19, she returned to her
family home in Columbus, admitting, “I didn’t know what in
the world I was going to do.” Initially she considered nursing,
but her father insisted that she was still too young to attend
nursing school.
Ten, shortly after her return to Columbus, she received
a call from the wife of an Oberlin College professor, Mrs.
Albert S. Wolfe. Wolfe was working with other local women
for woman sufrage, and had co-founded the Franklin County
(Ohio) Woman Sufrage Organization.
Te established women of the Franklin County organiza-
tion were on the lookout for younger women to engage in their
work. Seeing a notice in the newspaper about Atcherson’s
recent graduation from Smith College, they surmised that she
might be looking for something to do. Atcherson had been
exposed to the woman sufrage movement while at Smith,
though she had not been especially active. However, she
agreed to volunteer at the Sufrage Association in Columbus in
the summer of 1913.
Some of the contacts she made there would aid her
immensely when she began lobbying for a Foreign Service
appointment in the early 1920s. She later observed of her
sufrage work that she had appreciated being in all “kinds of
circles where there are all kinds of women.” Like so many of
her peers, Atcherson beneftted from extensive woman-to-
woman networking.
Lucile Atcherson, the frst female FSO, December 1922.