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Trekking Through Parts Unknown: Women Couriers and Their Predecessors — Part 1: The Diplomatic Security Service honors the women of the Diplomatic Courier Service in the first of a two-part series in commemoration of Women’s History Month, March 2018.

In 1918, the Diplomatic Courier Service was established to support the work of U.S. diplomats by ensuring that classified messages and materials were delivered safely and securely to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

In the 1950’s, before the onset of the jet age, couriers — all men — traveled tens of thousands of miles per year, often spending months on the road, sometimes in unsafe, hazardous conditions. Yet in that male-dominated era there also were women assigned to the Diplomatic Courier Service as Foreign Service secretaries. They performed administrative duties, usually working in the courier hubs, but sometimes they traveled alongside the couriers under hazardous conditions. Other times, women stepped in and transported sensitive diplomatic pouches while on travel in other government or military roles.

It was not until November 01, 1972, more than half a century after the creation of the Diplomatic Courier Service, when the first woman courier, Susan Shirley Carter, reported for duty — 10 years after she joined the Foreign Service. Carter was assigned to the Washington Regional Diplomatic Courier Division, which is primarily responsible for supplying classified material to the other courier offices around the globe for onward delivery. Two months later, a second woman, Lillian Godek, joined the Courier Service.

 

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In the 1950’s, before the onset of the jet age, couriers — all men — traveled tens of thousands of miles per year, often spending months on the road, sometimes in unsafe, hazardous conditions. Yet in that male-dominated era there also were women assigned to the Diplomatic Courier Service as Foreign Service secretaries. They performed administrative duties, usually working in the courier hubs, but sometimes they traveled alongside the couriers under hazardous conditions. Other times, women stepped in and transported sensitive diplomatic pouches while on travel in other government or military roles.

It was not until November 01, 1972, more than half a century after the creation of the Diplomatic Courier Service, when the first woman courier, Susan Shirley Carter, reported for duty — 10 years after she joined the Foreign Service. Carter was assigned to the Washington Regional Diplomatic Courier Division, which is primarily responsible for supplying classified material to the other courier offices around the globe for onward delivery. Two months later, a second woman, Lillian Godek, joined the Courier Service.