Cover image for A woman of the Times : journalism, feminism, and the career of Charlotte Curtis
A woman of the Times : journalism, feminism, and the career of Charlotte Curtis
Greenwald, Marilyn S.
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Athens : Ohio University Press, [1999]

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xxiv, 251 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
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PN4874.G698 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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For twenty-five years, Charlotte Curtis was a society/women's reporter and editor and an op-ed editor at the New York Times. As the first woman section editor at the Times, Curtis was a pioneering journalist and one of the first nationwide to change the nature and content of the women's pages from fluffy wedding announcements and recipes to the more newsy, issue-oriented stories that characterize them today. In this riveting biography, Marilyn Greenwald describes how a woman reporter from Columbus, Ohio, broke into the ranks of the male-dominated upper echelon at the New York Times. It documents what she did to succeed and what she had to sacrifice. Charlotte Curtis paved the way for the journalists who followed her. A Woman of the Times offers a chronicle of her hard-won journey as she invents her own brand of feminism during the 1960s and 1970s. In the telling of this remarkable woman's life is the story, as well, of a critical era in the nation's social history.

Author Notes

Marilyn S. Greenwald is a professor of journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She was formerly a reporter and editor at several daily papers in Ohio. She and her husband live in Columbus, Ohio.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Charlotte Curtis joined the New York Times in 1961 and managed to maneuver the "Byzantine internal political structure" to reach a slot in the paper's masthead. She started as a society writer during a period of social turmoil (civil rights and women's rights movements) that eventually fueled changes in the women's sections of newspapers and freed women reporters from the ghetto of women's pages. She progressed to feature writer and, eventually, a columnist and editor of the op-ed page. Greenwald examines how Curtis progressed during a period of stifling assumptions about women in journalism. Curtis had a cutting and glib writing style not typical of society writers and was an early practitioner of "New Journalism," descriptive and subjective writing. According to Greenwald, the progressive Curtis was ambivalent about the women's movement, critical of the early tactics and the posturing of the movement. This is a fascinating look at a pioneer of modern journalism. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Charlotte Curtis was the most noted woman writer and editor associated with the New York Times at the time of her death from breast cancer in 1987 at the age of 59. With a sharp eye for detail and a solid sense of historical context, Greenwald charts Curtis's trajectory as a journalist, focusing largely on her 17-year tenure at the Times and her rise from a society reporter for the women's pages (known as the "4 Fs": food, fashion, family and furnishings) to the editor of the section to the editor of the op-ed page. Born in 1928 to an upper-middle class Cleveland family, Curtis graduated from Vassar and took a job at the Columbus Citizen-Journal. Ten years later, in 1961, she moved to the Times and quickly became known across the nation for her tart, insightful interviews, reporting and commentaries. Greenwald is at her best when detailing Curtis's significant contributions to journalism. She contends that by regarding herself as a "sociologist," critiquing her subjects and placing them in a broader social context, Curtis reinvented how U.S. newspaper journalists cover society and celebrity events. Greenwald makes the case that Curtis's style helped lay the groundwork for "new journalism," the advent of newspaper "style" sections and aspects of Truman Capote and Dominick Dunne's work. Greenwald also evenhandedly delineates why Curtis refused to join other women at the Times in a class-action discrimination suit. Although it doesn't offer as broad and rich a portrait of Curtis's 1960s and 1970s milieu as it might, this is an intelligent, accessible biography of a minor but important figure in the history of journalism. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Worthwhile though flawed, this biography reveals a journalist who did much to transform "women's news." As society editor of The New York Times, Curtis took what Greenwald (Ohio Univ.) calls an "emperor wears no clothes" approach. Though her late-career stint as Times op-ed editor was unremarkable, in the 1960s Curtis was in the vanguard of editors who in their sometimes gritty "lifestyle" sections began to transcend the old women's-page world of flower shows and cotillions. The author's take on Curtis's differences with the women's movement is enlightening. Though careful not to push too hard, the supremely ambitious Curtis was not shy about using friendships to further her career. She was strongly influenced by her mother, Lucile Atcherson Curtis, to whom Greenwald devotes most of her first chapter (a distracting arrangement). The author plumbs Curtis's love life and her struggle with ultimately fatal cancer. Greenwald's book adds to the literature about the inner workings of The Times--Edwin Diamond's Behind The Times (1994), Gay Talese's The Kingdom and the Power (1969), Susan Dryfoos's several books, Max Frankel's The Times of My Life and My Life with The Times (CH, Oct'99), etc. But Greenwald has researched well and written clearly. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers; professionals. A. R. Cannella; Central Connecticut State University



Chapter One A Life in Public Service BY THE TIME Charlotte Murray Curtis and her sister Mary Darling Curtis were born in 1928 and 1930, respectively, their parents had lived full lives and received national recognition. Their mother, Lucile Atcherson Curtis, who graduated from high school at the age of fourteen, had been a pioneering U.S. diplomat who was the subject of stories in numerous major newspapers, including the Christian Science Monitor , and the Philadelphia Public Ledger . Their father, George Morris Curtis, a physician, earned medical, master's, and Ph.D. degrees and had done groundbreaking research into the effect of iodine on the thyroid, all before he was forty.     Charlotte and Mary could have resigned themselves to mundane lives, assuming they would never repeat the accomplishments of their parents; they could have tried to compete with their parents; or they could have assumed that being unusual and brilliant was the norm. The Curtis girls unconsciously selected the last option. As Charlotte noted decades later, they had to succeed--it never occurred to them to do otherwise. Their parents excelled in widely diverse areas. Lucile devoted most of her ninety-one years to social causes and international diplomacy, while George was a dedicated scientist and teacher.     It was not unusual for two such accomplished people to meet and fall in love. Both had traveled around the world, and both had made their careers their top priority in an era when family came first--especially for women. But in 1926, when Lucile Atcherson, a thirty-two-year-old diplomat for the U.S. State Department, met thirty-six-year-old George Curtis in Bern, Switzerland, they moved quickly. It was unusual then for people their age to be unattached, no matter how important their lifework. Within two years, they had married and moved to Chicago, where Curtis was appointed associate professor of surgery at the newly established University of Chicago Medical School. A year later, Charlotte was born, and sixteen months later, Mary came along. Lucile gave up her career to take care of their infant daughters.     As a child, Lucile was the apple of her father's eye. Fred Wayland Atcherson was a widower when he married Charlotte Ray, who was fifteen years his junior, and he showered affection on his only child, who was born on October 11, 1894, when he was thirty-nine. He had both the inclination and the means to spoil her. A prominent citizen in Columbus, Ohio, he was a county commissioner and the owner of much commercial and residential real estate, including the landmark Normandie Hotel on Long Street in downtown Columbus, which he built in 1906, and a downtown livery stable on Gay Street. The elegant ten-story Normandie had an Old World grace, with terra-cotta and marble floors and walls and a caged exterior elevator. Fred, a Massachusetts native who spent his adult life in Columbus, devoted much of his time to his business and politics. What time was left he spent doting on Lucile. He gave her everything she wanted from the moment she was born.     His wife, Charlotte Ray Atcherson, was born in 1871 into a family with roots in Wartrace, Tennessee. Charlotte's father was a doctor in the Civil War, and the family moved north after the war ended. Charlotte was a tiny and energetic woman who loved elegance and the finer things in life. But she also was a natural storyteller and a nurturer, whose top priority was Lucile, her only child.     Fred Atcherson was a shrewd businessman. He and his father, both of whom held managerial positions in the horse-drawn railway system, came to Columbus in the late 1800s. They opened a small livery stable downtown in 1878--a venture that became so profitable that they were soon forced to move it to bigger quarters a few blocks away.     Atcherson was one of the first in town to realize the potential of automobiles, and in 1914 he opened one of the nation's first taxi services at a time when "taxi" was not a part of the American lexicon. The progressive-thinking Atcherson could provide his customers with either a horse-drawn taxi or an automobile. His businesses grew more lucrative, and he soon learned that autos required much better roads than horses. The best way to get better roads, he knew, was to take action himself. A Republican, he ran for the Franklin County Commission, on which he served from 1918 to 1933, including four years as chairman. He also helped found the Ohio Club (later the Columbus Athletic Club), an exclusive organization that was a meeting place for businessmen like himself. By the time he retired in 1933, thanks to him, Franklin County had a network of blacktop streets that was acclaimed throughout the country.     Lucile wanted for nothing as she grew up on the outskirts of Columbus on 4690 Sunbury Road, a sprawling country home the Atchersons called Brookwood. She loved riding horses, so her father bought her one. She attended the prestigious private Columbus School for Girls (CSG), where she excelled as a student. Being an outstanding student at CSG was no easy feat. Many of the wealthy people of Columbus sent their daughters there for intellectual stimulation while they learned the finer points of etiquette. Lucile graduated at age fourteen and, with her horse, was sent to Smith College. To Lucile, Smith was an extension of CSG. It was a school for reserved, well-to-do young women who seriously wanted an education but who knew that their main purpose in life was to marry well and raise a family. One did not get a fine education there to prepare for a career but rather to become a well-rounded individual who would be a capable and gracious wife, mother, and hostess.     Lucile was on the fast track at Smith, and she graduated at age eighteen. Graduating early from high school and college was both a blessing and a curse. Although she was challenged academically and did not have to stay in lockstep with her slower peers, she often missed out socially and faced a dilemma when she graduated: what should she do with the rest of her life?     Despite the Atchersons' affluence, both parents were driven and intense, and they taught their daughter to scorn idleness. During her summers home from Smith in 1910 through 1912, she volunteered as an aide to Columbus's only visiting nurse, an activity that gave her a lifelong interest in public health. In 1913, she returned to Columbus with a college degree in finance and economics and no plans. She worked for her father at the Normandie and, briefly, as a secretary for William Oxley Thompson, the president of Ohio State University. She took a few business courses at the University of Chicago and also worked for a short time as a secretary for the president of that university. Lucile grew bored with these jobs, however, and she quickly learned that her greatest fulfillment came from activities that gave her no money or academic credit. She began doing volunteer work for several health and cultural organizations in Columbus and in 1914 embarked on a mission that would change her outlook on life: for $30 a week, she worked as executive secretary of the Franklin County Suffrage Society.     In 1912, five thousand women marched through staid, conservative Columbus, the state capital, advocating a constitutional amendment that would give women the right to vote. They were unsuccessful in the short run, but they helped establish the momentum that would lead to future victories. By the end of World War I, women were allowed to vote in Columbus school board elections, and their efforts gave them visibility and drew thousands of supporters. Lucile was one of the marchers, and she initially joined the women's suffrage movement because, she said sixty-five years later, "it was better than sitting on the front porch swing."     The headstrong Lucile worked tirelessly for women's suffrage and later became the first Columbus woman to join the National Women's Party. She also helped organize the Ohio Suffrage Association. Lucile's biggest success as a suffrage leader was her effort to persuade black women's groups to join the movement, which resulted in black women in Columbus distributing thousands of leaflets urging male voters to support suffrage.     Her activities as a suffrage leader in Ohio encouraged Lucile to realize that her gender did not have to limit her career goals. She knew by then that she could not work day after day at a monotonous white-collar job, so in 1917, at age twenty-three, she volunteered overseas with the staff of the American Fund for the French Wounded (AFFW), a joint effort of the French and American governments; she was transferred a year later to the newly organized civilian division of the AFFW called the American Committee for Devastated France, whose purpose was to aid the physical restoration of eleven villages and provide social and medical services. Lucile worked for the administrator of the program, Anne Morgan, sister of industrialist J. P. Morgan. Lucile's efforts were rewarded when she was transferred to Paris to become director of personnel there for the organization. In December 1919, she was honored by the French government for her efforts and given a medal--the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise.     Her activities in France whetted her appetite for foreign service, but in 1919, women did not yet have the vote and were not considered U.S. citizens and therefore were ineligible for foreign diplomatic service. In 1920, however, women won the right to vote, and Lucile applied to take an exhaustive series of tests that would make her eligible for the Foreign Service. She was the first woman to apply for the test.     That a woman had the audacity to apply for the exam drew national attention. The three-day Foreign Service exam asked detailed questions about international law, history, and foreign governments, and it required proficiency in a minimum of one foreign language. In addition, students' diplomatic skills, manners, and character were tested. Like most others who took the test, Lucile received extensive tutoring beforehand. At first, Charles Hill, head of the political science department at George Washington University, feared that a woman in his all-male class might distract the men who were preparing for the exam. But Lucile caused him to change his mind: "It was an inspiration to come in contact with a mentality like Miss Atcherson's," he said. "She is far above the average man or woman." She and twelve men passed the test.     A newspaper story at the time described Lucile as a tall brunette with brown eyes who was no "frump": "She is beautifully groomed from belt to buckle. All of her clothes have that indefinable thing called style, following fashion in a dignified--not extreme--way.... There is no place for frumps in the Diplomatic Corps," the story said.     As Lucile quickly learned, qualifying for the Foreign Service and serving overseas were two different things. In 1922, she made history when President Warren G. Harding nominated her as the first woman in the U.S. Foreign Service, but the male-dominated U.S. Senate did not think it appropriate for a young single woman to travel overseas as a diplomat, and it refused to approve the appointment. Instead, Lucile was appointed to the State Department's division of Latin American Affairs in Washington, D.C., where she worked actively to maintain relations between the United States and ten Latin American countries.     Lucile worked hard to pass the Foreign Service exam, but if she was angry at not being allowed to serve overseas, she did not show it. When a reporter asked her reaction, she was coy: "As for Miss Atcherson, you couldn't get any reaction out of her as she considers herself a soldier ready to obey orders without question," the reporter wrote. "In fact, she insisted smilingly that she loved Washington, that it was a lovely city and that it would give her still better training for the foreign service."     Lucile's participation in the suffrage movement taught her about the power of numbers, and she sought support for the cause. After being by swamped by letters and telegrams of support from the Women's Suffrage Society, the League of Women Voters, and other women's and political groups, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recommended her appointment overseas and the full Senate approved it in 1923. She became a U.S. diplomat based in Bern, Switzerland, or, officially, "third secretary of the legation" in Bern. The appointment made history, and it was heralded on the front page of the Christian Science Monitor as "an expansion of women's political aspirations."     Lucile's appointment, combined with her family's affluence, gave her the opportunity and means to travel throughout Europe by car. "She had her own Buick," said William Hunt, Lucile's future son-in-law, who, seventy years later, was amused at the image of the thirty-year-old Lucile roaming around prewar Europe in her car. Hunt's favorite anecdote about the bold Lucile--an anecdote passed on by her daughter Charlotte--involves Lucile's attempt to cross the Swiss border. Traveling from one country to another was routine for Lucile, who would flash her diplomatic pass at the border and go on her way. "It was unusual for a woman to have a diplomatic pass, and the Swiss border guard didn't believe it was valid," Hunt said. The guard refused to grant her passage, but Lucile would not be deterred. Although it was a Saturday, she managed to locate the American ambassador, who happened to be out on the golf course, and she eventually was permitted passage. This stubbornness and resourcefulness "was very Lucile," Hunt said.     It was a carefree and interesting life for the unconventional and independent Lucile, who had a natural interest in history and in the way people lived. But her younger daughter, Mary, remembers her mother telling her that this unusual life was not always what it seemed: "She was a free spirit--as free as you could be in that era," Mary Curtis Davey said seven decades later. "Yet as she told me one time, it was lonely going home at night and not having anyone to share it with."     While Lucile was traveling through Europe as a diplomat, Dr. George Morris Curtis was in Bern conducting research on the effect of iodine on the thyroid. Curtis was born in 1890 in Big Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in nearby Greenfield, the home of Gibson refrigerators. The son of a Unitarian minister, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1910 with master's and bachelor's degrees and received a doctorate in anatomy four years later. In 1914, at age twenty-four, he became an assistant professor of anatomy at Vanderbilt University and became head of the department a year later.     Holding three degrees and running a department was not enough for Curtis, who loved learning. After serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War I, he entered Rush Medical College in Chicago and received a medical degree in 1920. In 1924, he was awarded a fellowship by the National Research Council to study iodine metabolism at the University of Chicago and the University of Bern. It was important that Curtis study in Switzerland because populations of such landlocked areas frequently lacked adequate supplies of iodine, and he tried to determine if this lack was responsible for unusually high levels of cretinism in Switzerland. He eventually became one of several researchers who helped ensure that table salt contained adequate levels of iodine.     George Curtis and Lucile Atcherson met in Bern in 1926, and their courtship was unusual by any standards. Lucile was stationed in Bern, but she traveled throughout Europe, so they had to conduct a romance through the mail. By the summer of 1927, Lucile had been transferred to Panama, limiting their time together even more. As their relationship grew, so did their written correspondence. From the time they met in mid-1926 until the time they married in on January 16, 1928, Lucile and George Morris Curtis wrote each other nearly every day they were separated and sometimes two or three times a day.     At first, the two were unfailingly polite to each other. In a letter from Oslo, Curtis described the sights in detail and flirtatiously asked Lucile if, despite her lofty position, he could call her by her first name: "Do you mind if I commence this letter so? It seems so formal to use Miss, in spite of the fact that you are the trusted Secretary of American Legation in Bern."     Within a year, Curtis and Lucile were engaged, and Curtis wrote to her happily about marriage plans and his announcement of their engagement to friends: "It is such happiness to think that you are coming to live with me and be my comrade, my sweetheart and my wife. I shall try hard to make you happy dearest one ... I have told my dear friends of our engagement and they all are warm in their congratulations and warm in their admiration of you."     By mid-1927, however, Lucile was transferred out of Bern and to Panama, a move that did not please her. She rarely complained, but some of her letters to her fiancé lacked their characteristic interesting commentary and upbeat tone. Shortly after she was transferred, she remarked that the bugs and the heat made life difficult. In one letter, she said she was grateful she had not contracted malaria.     Although Lucile had accomplished her goal of becoming a pioneering diplomat, she found it nearly impossible to gain acceptance in the male-dominated world of diplomacy. The Swiss with whom she worked in Bern--and her own colleagues--had trouble accepting a woman in their line of work, and Lucile was not promoted, even though the men who entered the Foreign Service with her had gained promotions in the five years they had served.     In the summer of 1927, Lucile wrote a courteous letter to the legation's personnel chief, asking when she could expect a promotion and why others had been promoted ahead of her. She painstakingly documented the dates of the promotions of seven of the eight men who joined the Foreign Service when she did (one had dropped out) and noted that she had not been told why she was not promoted.     Lucile's letter triggered a flurry of correspondence among high-ranking members of the Foreign Service. Since she began her job working overseas in 1925, she had received two job evaluations--the first, in late 1925, was positive. Her ratings in various categories of "personality" and "quality of work" were good to excellent. In written comments, her superior, Hugh Gibson, noted that the appointment of a female diplomat amused the Swiss, "and they have not always been kindly in their comments ... [but] Miss Atcherson has conducted herself with dignity and good sense by showing a desire to be inconspicuous and has done a good deal to disarm criticism."     Lucile's situation had changed dramatically by October 1926. In a detailed "annual efficiency report," Gibson stated Lucile's inability to mingle with her male colleagues was devastating to her career. Her status as a woman officer was a novelty and made her conspicuous: "She is by nature reserved and formal with little facility in personal relationships.... She does not possess the savoir vivre necessary to meet a difficult situation." Further, Lucile received substantial help from her colleagues--much more than any man in her position would receive, he wrote.     Gibson acknowledged repeatedly in his evaluation that a woman diplomat can never be successful simply because she does not have the access to and personality of the men with whom she works: "[A male secretary] cultivates the society of colleagues and officials of the Government. He frequents their company in spare time, encourages them to come to his home and otherwise seeks to cultivate their ... confidences.... A woman secretary is at a disadvantage."     Shortly after Lucile wrote the letter asking why she had not been promoted, the personnel board provided its members with a more exhaustive and damning summary of her work, noting that her overall numerical ranking had declined in each of the three years she had served overseas. By 1927, her ranking of seventy-six made her eighty-fifth in her class of ninety-two officers. Further, the report said, she lacked character ("Lacks initiative and has little sense of responsibility"), ability ("Lacking in resource, tact, judgment and sense of what is fitting"), and a positive personality ("Egotistical; has harmed prestige of Legation with her actions.... Her sex a handicap to useful official friendships"). The last comment is the most telling--up to this point in her life, she had been nearly perfect in every way. These universally negative rankings were uncharacteristic of her, and they may be seen as evaluations not just of Lucile but of those with whom she worked. The challenges facing her as a woman made the job more difficult for those around her, and her colleagues were not willing to change to accommodate her.     Lucile evidently was never shown these evaluations and simply was told that her performance record did not merit promotion. But it was the transfer to Panama combined with her deepening relationship with George Curtis that prompted her resignation from the Foreign Service. Yet her resignation worried the State Department's personnel office. Officials erroneously believed that it was prompted by Lucile's failure to be promoted and that it might become a public relations nightmare.     Their fears were unfounded, however, and in the fall of 1927, Lucile resigned from the Foreign Service to make final preparations for her January wedding. Shortly thereafter Curtis returned to his post at the University of Chicago. Letters between the two at that time show the eagerness--and amazement--Lucile felt about the upcoming wedding. Twelve days before their wedding, she wrote how pleased she was to have received three letters from him in one day, and she happily described three wedding presents they had received by mail. At the end, she was giddy: "Thank you for the New Year's wishes--this year does bid fair to bring my heart's chief desire-the best husband in the world. LA. The idea of my having a husband!" Lucile and George were married in a small ceremony in Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus; the reception was held at the bride's home, Brookwood. George's sister was the matron of honor and only attendant and his brother the best man.     By the following year, they were living in Chicago, where he began work as associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medical School. Lucile's life undoubtedly became more mundane when she moved back to the United States, but once she was married, she had no choice about continuing in the Foreign Service. Diplomatic service was restricted to unmarried women. By the end of 1928, Lucile's life changed dramatically again--on December 19, 1928, her daughter Charlotte was born; another, Mary, came less than two years later. * * * When Mary Curtis was born in 1930, the Curtises had become a typical Midwest family. George spent most of his time as a professor and researcher, and he earned a reputation as a driven teacher--one who was tough but who took a deep interest in his students. Lucile stayed at home to care for their two baby daughters. The new arrangement put a damper on their traveling; until this time, both George and Lucile had spent much of their adult lives living in various cities around the world.     But their travel schedule resumed in a limited way as soon their children were old enough to travel with them. After Charlotte and Mary grew up, George and Lucile Curtis traveled more extensively. Even a series of strokes George suffered while he was in his fifties did not prevent numerous trips, although in 1952, at sixty-two, he became permanently disabled and needed a wheelchair. Curtis's family had a history of fatal cerebral hemorrhages. His three siblings all died of them: his younger sister, Martha, a nurse, died at age thirty-eight; an older sister, Lucille, at age fifty; and a younger brother, Arthur, a dermatologist, at age fifty-six. When George Curtis died of pneumonia in 1965 at age seventy-five, he had lived to an older age than any of them.     After the Curtises had lived in Chicago for about two years, Lucile moved back to Columbus to help manage her father's hotel. Fred Atcherson was in his seventies. Managing the Normandie was a full-time job for him and his daughter, and the pair usually worked six or seven days a week. George Curtis visited on most weekends after Lucile, Charlotte, and Mary moved to the house in Sunbury Road with Lucile's mother, Charlotte. Fred Atcherson maintained a residence at the Normandie, although he spent much time at Brookwood.     This unconventional family arrangement--with George living away from his family--lasted only about a year or two. By 1932, George Curtis was promoted to full professor at the University of Chicago, but that year he was offered a position as professor of surgery at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. The OSU medical school was expanding at this time, and its administrators believed that Curtis, as a brilliant researcher and teacher, would help establish the national recognition they sought. And the match endured: George Morris Curtis was named chairman of OSU's department of research surgery in 1936, a job he would hold until the end of his career. His two daughters would grow up in their mother's hometown in a closely knit extended family that included their maternal grandparents. * * * Lucile Curtis lived twenty years after her husband, filling her life with extensive travel and public service. Although she was physically healthy for most of her adult life, Lucile battled depression, and long after her husband had died and her children were grown, she attempted suicide. The energetic and upbeat Lucile was the last person anyone would have suspected of suffering depression. With her exhausting travel schedule and volunteer efforts, she was rarely idle, and she took pride in blending in with the natives during her travels and handling adversity with a sense of humor. Her daughter Charlotte once described two exotic excursions taken by her septuagenarian mother: "Last summer ... she ate bits of goat for breakfast in Outer Mongolia and lived in a yurt, one of those funny little tent things. She was also in Siberia, which she later said reminded her of Columbus in early days." In a 1980 résumé, Lucile wrote, "I have crossed the Atlantic and returned more times than I have fingers and the Pacific more times than toes. Three trips completely around the world, one by air, two by ship (one of these by Chinese freighter). Jamaica visited first in 1924--returned 4 times. Barbados 4 winters. Cuba, Colombia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, So. Korea, Cambodia, S. Vietnam."     Lucile made some trips to accept national public service awards. Ironically, despite her poor performance evaluations as a member of the Foreign Service, she and Clifton Wharton, the first black person in the Foreign Service, were honored for their pioneering efforts as part of the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Day on May 19, 1978. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance presented Lucile, then eighty-four, with a twelve-by-sixteen-inch copper plate mounted on a rosewood plaque, on which a map of the world was etched with dots to mark the places she served as a diplomatic officer. An inscription noted her pioneering role: "[She] broke the barriers for equality among the sexes in the Foreign Service."     As an indirect result of the State Department honor and for five decades of volunteer work in Ohio, the mayor of Columbus declared May 19, 1976, Lucile A. Curtis Day, calling her a "Franklin County treasure." The Columbus Citizen-Journal editorialized that she was deserving of the title, listing nearly two dozen organizations of which she was an officer or board member.     At age seventy-seven, she was named a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging and received outstanding alumni awards from Smith College and the Columbus School for Girls, as well as honors from Temple Israel in Columbus, Citizens' Research, a community organization, and the service club Sertoma.     Lucile Curtis demonstrated to her daughters the importance of public service and hard work, cultivated their curious minds and tenacious spirits, and taught them to respect unconventional lifestyles. If it is possible for a woman to inherit the ability to navigate successfully in a man's world, Charlotte surely acquired that trait from her mother. There is little doubt, however, that Charlotte also inherited from her an oddly paradoxical personality--one that allowed Lucile, a world traveler and pioneering diplomat, to settle calmly into a life of domesticity. But Lucile, for most of her life, fooled everyone by masking periodic attacks of severe depression with a serene facade. Copyright © 1999 Marilyn S. Greenwald. All rights reserved.