When a family friend gave Phyllis Oakley a sample of the State Department’s foreign service examination, she doubted she could pass. A few years later, she scored high enough to become a member of America’s diplomatic corps, prepared for a life on the front lines of the nation’s missions abroad.
But within a year of joining the State Department, she resigned.
Oakley had met her husband Robert, also a Foreign Service officer, and per State Department guidelines, a married woman was forced to resign.
“It was just simply accepted. If a woman married, she resigned. I never asked to see the regulation, I never fought it; nice girls in the 1950s didn’t do that,” Oakley said in an interview with The Hill.
“When I say this to young women they look at me like, ‘That must have been in the Middle Ages, and you’re still alive.’ It was in the