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Breaking ProtocolAmerica's First Female Ambassadors, 1933-1964$
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Philip Nash

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813178394

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813178394.001.0001

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Perle S. Mesta

Perle S. Mesta

Luxembourg, 1949–1953

(p.78) 4 Perle S. Mesta
Breaking Protocol

Philip Nash

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter tells the story of Perle Mesta, US minister to Luxembourg (1949–1953). A wealthy widow, Mesta was a political fundraiser, businesswoman, and National Woman’s Party activist before becoming Washington, DC’s leading society hostess after World War II. She was close to President Harry S. Truman, who, lobbied by India Edwards, sent her to Luxembourg as a reward for her important work for his 1948 campaign. Her appointment became the butt of jokes and inspired the hit musical comedy Call Me Madam, but she performed fairly well considering her limitations and the sometimes fierce hostility she faced from career diplomats. She applied her party-giving instincts to her post, reaching out to average Luxembourgers and becoming a major celebrity to them. Official Luxembourg was ambivalent, finding it difficult to take her seriously and yet enjoying the attention, top-level access, and enhanced international status that her appointment provided.

Keywords:   Perle Mesta, Luxembourg, Harry S. Truman, Call Me Madam, India Edwards

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