Women Were (For the Most Part) Not Part of the “Mad Men” in the Early Peace Corps

In the third year of the Peace Corps–1963–a booklet was published by the agency entitled “Who’s Who in the Peace Corps Washington.” Here is one photo of the early Staff Meetings with Shriver at the head of the table.


(Shriver top left, back to the map) Two Women sitting at the far end of the table in the Peace Corps’ first office in the Maiatico Building, 1963. (The elevators, by the way, were all operated by women.)



Alice Gilbert

Ruth Olson

A list of the top 40 employees are profiled in this booklet. Only three profiles, however, were of women: Alice Gilbert (Director of the Division of United Nations and International Agency Programs); Ruth Olson (Special Assistant to the Chief of the Division of Volunteer Field Support); Dorothy Mead Jacobsen (Chief of the Division of Personnel).

Dorothy Mead Jacobsen

There was also a list of “Charter Members” of the agency. They have a photo and a paragraph. A total of 21 employees were profiled. Of them 7 were women: Jean Hundley, a secretary; Nan Tucker McEvoy, Deputy Director of Africa Programs; Sally Bowles, daughter of Ambassador Chester Bowles; Helen Farrall, receptionist; Gloria Gaston, African Region; Nancy Gore, assistant to the Associate Director for Planning and Evaluation; Mary Ann Orlando, Confidential Assistant to the Director.

Coates Redmon in her 1986 book Come As You Are: The Peace Corps Story profiles one ‘famous’ early woman staffer, Betty Harris. 7 men were profiled.  There were a few other women in key positions, Jane Campbell, in the Division of Volunteers Support, and later APCD in Ethiopia. In those founding years–1961-1963, no woman was a Peace Corps Country Director. Fifty years ago, 65 percent of the people volunteering to join the Peace Corps were men and 35 percent were women. Today, those numbers have flipped, with 66 percent of Volunteers are women and 34 percent men.

It wasn’t until the first RPCVs returned from overseas that HQ began to be ‘flooded’ with females, RPCVs like Maureen Carroll (Philippines 1961-63); Peggy   Anderson (Togo 1962-64); Sally Collier (Ethiopia 1962-64); and our own, Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962-64), among others.

Today, 63% of all Peace Corps Volunteers are women. And since 1977 there has been 21 Peace Corps Directors–7 have been women; 4 were Volunteers. I would estimate that today 1/3 of all CDs are women. In fact, Maureen Carroll and Sally Collier–later in their Peace Corps years–became country directors in Africa.

Today, from the directorship to the PCVs, the agency is being led by women.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.