Establishment of AAFSW

Initially called the “Foreign Service Women’s Association,” the Association of American Foreign Service Women was founded in 1960 in response to a discussion among wives who felt that their needs and those of their families were not adequately understood by important decision makers. June Byrne Spencer suggested the creation of an organization, removed from considerations of rank, which would represent families at every level. It was clear that women and families in the Foreign Service community needed a voice.

Interview with June Byrne Spencer, first President of FSWA (later known as AAFSW)

June Byrne Spencer (1989)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording], Transcript file from, pp. 20-21

“We spent the end of 1959 talking, a great deal of early ’60 talking, but we went ahead very fast. We sent out a notice to 1000 women in the Department, telling them that we wanted to start this organization. It was a very simple memorandum that we had drafted. And the aims that we listed were very modest and simple. And we said we felt that the Foreign Service would be better served if we had – and the women themselves – if we had a simple organization. What did they think of the idea? And we got back an overwhelming response. That it was a good idea, that they liked it. So that we went ahead then and started writing, started getting together tentative by-laws, a certificate of incorporation. We had an application blank, we had a ballot with the selection of officers for the new organization, and we started rolling.”

June Byrne Spencer


“After a poll of over a thousand Foreign Service wives the time seemed ripe for organization. Henceforth, the Foreign Service Wives group is to be known as the Foreign Service Women’s Association. It will be open to active and retired women of the Foreign Service, connected either through their husbands’ positions or their own employment.”

Foreign Service wives unite” by Marie McNair, Washington Post, May 24, 1960