# 18 Mad Woman At The Peace Corps: Elizabeth Forsling Harris (Washington, D.C.)

In Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story, Coates Redmon tells how Shriver came back from Hyannis Port that Monday morning and charged into the Conference Room “waving the two memos” and declared, “I have talked to my wife, Eunice. I have talked to my sister-in-law, Ethel. And I have talked to General Maxwell Taylor. They all believe that married Peace Corps Volunteers should be able to have their babies overseas.”

The Mad Men of the Senior Staff sat stunned and silent. The Medical Division stared at Sarge in disbelief. Betty Harris tried hard not to look smug. What had really transpired in the mythical Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port?

Betty Harris would reach this conclusion: “What Sarge was revealing in all innocent candor was that the Kennedy

Shriver with PCVs at his home in the early years

Shriver with PCVs at his home in the early years

family felt fully  empowered to influence Peace Corps policy on matters of family. The Kennedy family would proclaim and decree at this level. Of course. Who else? The family, that is, and whatever hotshot celebrity was visiting them for the weekend in Hyannis Port. In this case, it was General Maxwell Taylor. He was there, and to the Kennedys, his rank gave him the privilege of pronouncing on anything. And Lord know, the Kennedy women do know a thing or two about childbearing.”

At the Senior Staff conference table that morning, Betty leaned forward and picked up a cigarette off the highly waxed surface,inserted the cigarette carefully into her jeweled holder, flipped the lid of her lighter, and  lit up another Camel. She was wearing a pink suit that Monday and the cigarette holder matched her outfit. Betty was famous for having cigarette holders that were color coordinated to her wardrobe.

She had with Shriver’s decision and declaration won the battle for women in the Peace Corps, pregnant, married or unmarried, and  in doing so she left more than a few (male) bodies in her wake, and they, of course, would never forget.



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  • But not “squatting in the bush” but rather in US military or other safe facilities, facilities that were not available to the average HCN mother.

    • Also, were unmarried PCVs allowed to remain in the Peace Corps, have their child, and contain serving? I am aware of women in the Peace Corps who became pregnant and resigned, citing other reasons. I am also aware of women who were “terminated” because the local staff felt their behavior was promiscuous or that local HCNs had complained about such behavior.

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