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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Backwards in High Heels by Thomas Carty

This is a fairly dry and factual biography of Faith Whittlesey, a formidable woman who was Reagan's Ambassador to Switzerland twice and a prominent member of his Senior Staff.  It covers her rise to fame and her somewhat tragic personal life well.  I also found the details of her time in Switzerland interesting.

When Whittlesey arrived in Switzerland the first time, Reagan's policies were extremely unpopular and there were large protests in the usually quiet country.  Whittlesey did a lot to win over the Swiss with her charm, her social events, and her enjoyment of Swiss sports.  She travelled through the country explaining Reagan's policies and she also went out of her way to make friends with important Swiss businessmen, who are apparently the 'rock star's of Swiss society.

Whittlesey's  influence helped to negotiate an acrimonious settlement between Swiss banks and American law enforcers over insider trading.  This was extremely difficult.  This part of the book was a bit dull, I thought.

Whittlesey, a staunch Conservative, had a fraught time in Washington because of leaks and accusations of corruption that were false.  She annoyed feminists and some 'moderate' Republicans because of her anti-abortion views.

I didn't finish the book but Whittlesey certainly had an interesting career and achieved great success.  She pointed out that: "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels."  Whittlesey showed that this is possible, even in politics.

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