Mary Elizabeth Bowser

Mary Elizabeth Boswer was born in the time period of 1839, in Richmond, Virginia.  Mary was born as a slave for the Van Lew family. Her slave owner, John Van Lew, was a wealthy hardware merchant. At the beginning of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, Elizabeth Van Lew asked Mary to be a spy to help the Union. Elizabeth couldn't take on the task by herself because she was supposed to be an important member of Richmond, but only because of her father's wealth and status. Elizabeth was a spy but also helped the Union by saving the prisoners and helping them escape.  Please see for more information on Boswer.


Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch, the first Asian American to hold such rank in U.S. history, has had an extensive career in international affairs and government service, beginning in 1964 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia and culminating as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Nepal in 1989. From 1981 to 1988, Ambassador Bloch served at the U.S. Agency for International Development as Assistant Administrator for Food for Peace and Voluntary Assistance and as Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East, positions appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. She also was the Chief Minority Counsel to a Senate Select Committee; a Senate professional staff member; the Deputy Director of the Office of African Affairs at the U.S. Information Agency; a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and an Associate of the U.S.-Japan Relations Program of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

After 25 years in government service, Ambassador Bloch moved to the corporate sector in 1993, becoming Group Executive Vice President at the Bank of America, where she created the Corporate Relations Department, heading the bank's Public Relations, Government Affairs, and Public Policy operations. From 1996 to 1998, Ambassador Bloch moved into philanthropy, serving as President and CEO of the United States-Japan Foundation, a private grant making institution, with $100 million in assets.



Ambassador Patricia Roberts Harris

Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African American female Ambassador. She served as Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1965 to 1967. She served as the first African American woman to hold a Cabinet position when she served as the US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 1997 -1979, as well as the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), 1980 – 1982, both under President Jimmy Carter. As Secretary of HUD, she fought for fair housing and employment practices. Ambassador Harris was also the first African-American to head a law school, as Dean of Howard University’s School of Law. Ambassador Harris was born on May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She died of breast cancer in 1985, at age 60.

Early in her education, she excelled academically and received a scholarship to Howard University. During her time at Howard, Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. While she was in college, Roberts participated in civil rights protests in Washington, D.C. In 1943, she took part in one of the earliest student sit-ins at a whites-only cafeteria.  While at Howard, Roberts served as Assistant Director for the American Council of Human Rights. 

Patricia Roberts Harris received a law degree from George Washington University in 1960.  She graduated number one in her class and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Roberts worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy. A year later, she returned to Howard as an associate dean of students while lecturing occasionally at the university’s law school.

In 1965, President Johnson appointed her as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. After serving in Luxembourg, Roberts returned to Howard in 1967, and two years later was named Dean of Howard University’s School of Law. She resigned a month later when Howard University President James E. Cheek refused to support her strong stand against student protests.

When Roberts was nominated in 1977 to become the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), during the confirmation hearings she was challenged repeatedly by Republican senators who questioned her ability to represent the interests of the poor. Her reply was: “You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a black woman, the daughter of a dining car waiter. I am a black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia. I didn’t start out as a member of a prestigious law firm, but as a woman who needed a scholarship to go to school. If you think that I have forgotten that, you are wrong.”

In 1980, Ambassador Roberts Harris was appointed Secretary of HEW. In 1982, she was selected as a permanent professor at the George Washington National Law Center. She held that position until she died of breast cancer on March 23, 1985.



Mari-Luci Jaramillo, First Female Latina U.S. Ambassador

Mari-Luci Jaramillo, the daughter of a shoe-maker in the small town of Las Vegas, N.M., and professor at The University of New Mexico was the first Latina to become a U.S. Ambassador—accepting an assignment to the Republic of Honduras. To honor the legacy of Jaramillo, fellow UNM colleagues, alumni, and friends came together to establish the U.S. Ambassador Mari-Luci Jaramillo Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will support doctoral students in the UNM College of Education (COE) whose backgrounds have prepared them to understand the unique needs of the Latino community.

Mari-Luci Jaramillo, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1977-1980, rose from poverty in New Mexico to a life of diplomacy and advocacy of civil rights for Hispanics.  With a husband, three children and a factory job, she completed an undergraduate degree at New Mexico Highlands University with the goal of teaching elementary school.  In 1977, President Carter selected her to be ambassador to Honduras, making her the first Hispanic-American female Ambassador and the first woman to head an embassy in the Western Hemisphere.  Ambassador Jaramillo drew upon her personal experiences with poverty and discrimination in her public service as U.S. ambassador and civil rights advocate, adhering to and respecting the values of her Latino family and community throughout her life.

Sources: ,