Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A spouse remembers: "My God, I'm not a person!"

First Spouse Program coin for Abigail Adams. R...Image via Wikipedia

KOTULA: Oh, yes, a lot less of this. And I had -- there were obviously a lot of receptions in San Jose, Costa Rica, that included visiting Congressmen or high-up specialty people in the Department of State, whether it be whatever agency or department-- USIS, or the Bureau of Consular Affairs. And there were a number of women who would come through from time to time from Washington, whether with Congressmen or from the Department of State or some other agency. Coming officially or accompanying someone, what have you. These were high-level receptions. I don't know how many times in a year, vis-a-vis women visitors, one of them would ask me, "Oh, and what do you do in the embassy?" And I'd say, "No, I'm a professional artist. My husband is So-and-so." And that would be the end of that conversation, and it would be very clear what I was thought of. You know, like, "You don't count!" (both laugh heartily) I can understand, but it just adds to your feelings of being a non-person. You get that feeling from men, but I think I've got that feeling from women a lot more.

Q: Really?


Q: Especially people from outside the community, visiting people?

KOTULA: Yes. Women on Congressmen's staff who were visiting with the Congressman. I didn't get it from female Congresswomen. I did get it from women working within the Department of State or other agencies who were visiting. Several of them, I recall, were working for the U.S. Information Agency.

Q: You think perhaps they could be educated a little better? (she laughs)

KOTULA: I don't know how you'd get over that. But that's just another thing that adds to the feeling "my God, I'm not a person."

The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training | Spouse Series Excerpted from Interview with Ruth Enslie Kotula Art Teacher and Professional Artist (FS Spouse 1966-1989)

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