Backwards in High Heels by Prof. Thomas J. Carty

backwardsinheelsBACKWARDS, IN HIGH HEELS: Faith Whittlesey, Ronald Reagan's "Madam Ambassador" in Switzerland and the West Wing (2012, Casemate Publishers) provides an intimate look at the life and career of Ambassador Faith Whittlesey, a Reagan-era appointee who twice served as the United States ambassador to Switzerland. The memoir, written by Dr. Thomas J. Carty, recounts the life of Ambassador Whittlesey, from her childhood to her position as the highest ranking female member of President Reagan’s administration, and as someone who was central in advancing the President’s domestic and foreign policy objectives.

Carty details Ambassador Whittlesey’s political career, including her time in Washington. She served as Director of the Office of Public Liaison and as Assistant to the President for Public Liaisons in between her two terms as the US ambassador to Switzerland. Carty takes care to highlight notable achievements of Ambassador Whittlesey, detailing her role in arranging a diplomatic resolution to a dispute between the American and Swiss governments regarding Swiss banking privacy laws, among other accomplishments. Backwards in High Heels demonstrates how Ambassador Whittlesey earned a great deal of respect and admiration from the Swiss during her time as ambassador; according to Carty, it was this recognition from the Swiss that allowed her to find common ground between President Reagan’s goals and the Swiss’ interests.

The memoir came together after several extensive, in-person interviews with Ambassador Whittlesey as well as interviews with a broad range of individuals from executives at multinational corporations to household staff at the U.S. embassy. These interviews were cross-referenced with confirmed dates and facts to verify accounts and thus present a faithful narrative. The memoir ends with an outline of Ambassador Whittlesey’s post-Washington work in the field of law as well as her time as president of the American Swiss Foundation, where she established the Young Leaders Conference to preserve and strengthen the historic friendship between the United States and Switzerland. Ambassador Whittlesey is currently Chair Emeritus of the organization.

The book serves a careful, in-depth account of Ambassador Faith Whittlesey’s time both in and outside of Washington and highlights her status as a pioneer for women in politics and as a prominent player within the Reagan administration.

About the author

Thomas is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Springfield College in Massachusetts. His bookA Catholic in the White House? Religion, Politics, and John Kennedy's Presidential Campaign (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) examines how Kennedy skillfully managed the religious issue during the 1960 campaign. Thomas's writings on religion and politics have appeared in several edited books, including Religion and the American Presidency and Catholics andAmerican Politics, and he has also written on American sport for local newspapers. He is currently researching presidential outreach to Catholics in the United States. Thomas received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Holy Cross College (Worcester, Massachusetts), where he majored in English Literature, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of History at the University of Connecticut (Storrs). He lives in Connecticut and speaks Spanish, which improves annually in trips to Peru with his two children, Marisol and Thomas IV, and his wife Rosamaría, who was born in Lima.