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Women of the world: the rise of the female diplomat

Women of the world: the rise of the female diplomat

McCarthy, Helen, author

Throughout the 20th century and long before, hundreds of determined British women defied the social conventions of their day in order to seek adventure and influence on the world stage. Some became travellers and explorers; others business-owners or buyers; others still devoted their lives to worthy international causes, from anti-slavery and women's suffrage to the League of Nations and world peace. Yet until 1946, no British woman could officially represent her nation abroad. It was only after decades of campaigning and the heroic labours performed by women during the Second World War that diplomatic careers were finally opened to both sexes. This book tells this story of personal and professional struggle against the dramatic backdrop of war, super-power rivalry and global transformation over the last century and a half

Hardback, Book. English.
Published London: Bloomsbury, 2014

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Statement of responsibility: Helen McCarthy
ISBN: 1408840057, 9781408840054
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: xii, 403 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (black and white, and colour) ; 24 cm
Subject: Diplomatic and consular service, British History 20th century.; Women diplomats Great Britain History 20th century.; Politics and Government.

Author note

Helen McCarthy is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London. She studied as an undergraduate at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and as a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University. She worked briefly for the think-tank Demos before embarking on doctoral studies at the University of London. Her first book, The British People and the League of Nations (Manchester University Press, 2011), explores the vibrant popular cultures of internationalism in inter-war Britain. Before taking up her post at Queen Mary, Helen was a Research Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters.


A lustrous book which traces the often agonising rise of women in the Foreign Office and mercilessly dissects the resistance they encountered||A path-breaking account, from one of our leading and most original historians of modern Britain, of how the male-dominated world of British diplomacy gradually - and grudgingly - let professional women in. It should be read by everyone who works in the Foreign Office, or in British embassies overseas, and by anyone, anywhere, who is concerned about the part that women have played, do play and should play, in the making of foreign policy and the conduct of international relations||McCarthy has produced a sometimes humorous but often dispiriting picture of what women who had set their sights on foreign posting continued to experience, long after they had won a toehold in other fields||Helen McCarthy has conducted a lot of valuable interviews for her book and researched assiduously||A fascinating account of the manoeuvres of the leaders of the Foreign Office to prevent the admission of women to its diplomatic and consular services||The women are striking, the trajectories of their often brief careers compelling||This pioneering study gives a penetrating, readable and most welcome introduction to a neglected set of issues, and will be gratefully received by a wide readership||Riveting||As McCarthy eloquently argues in this important book full brilliant vignettes, fighting to the top is usually harder for a woman||An account less about the rise of female diplomats than the often jaw-dropping machinations of the British establishment and the Foreign Office to keep women out of the ultimate boy's club||Carefully researched, stylishly written and highly entertaining . The story is rich with female pioneers . McCarthy's "women of the world" stand as a reminder that, for many women, ours is a world which has not yet been won||Vivid and engaging . Complexities come out beautifully in the lives recovered in this book||Well researched, illuminating and unexpectedly entertaining||Excellent history of British women in the rarefied world of high diplomacy.a deceptively quiet battle-cry of a history, thoughtfully and deeply researched.