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Diplomatic Ladies
New Zealand's Unsung Envoys

Joanna Woods

• Highly topical stories of Foreign Affairs wives, partners, companions
• From Maud Reeves in Edwardian London to Maria MacKay in New York on 9/11
• Twenty-five women (and one man) take the reader all over the world
• Entertaining, interesting, and illustrated throughout

The Book

Diplomatic Ladies tells the inside story of New Zealand’s diplomatic wives and daughters over a hundred years of diplomacy. Based on private letters, MFAT archives and personal interviews, it records many unknown episodes in New Zealand’s diplomatic history, including the part played by the spouses in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, and the perils faced by diplomatic wives in Saigon and Tehran. It also gives a unique insight into the workings of diplomatic life and the role of the diplomatic hostess.

Starting with Maud Pember Reeves in 1907, the author traces the evolution of New Zealand’s diplomatic service through the experiences of the women who accompanied their husbands to posts all over the world. It is a life full of interest and excitement, but in terms of family relationships and personal fulfilment, it comes at a price that many modern women are not prepared to pay. In this frank and authoritative account of what living on the cocktail party circuit is really like, the author pulls no punches about the downsides, especially the toll that it takes on the children. Nor does she shrink from recounting a few incidents in which wives or partners have been less than diplomatic. This is a collection of exciting and entertaining stories which not only shows what the wives have contributed to New Zealand’s diplomacy, but also reveals the true nature of the diplomatic world.


1 Maud and Amber 2 Moscow Wives 3 The Mistress of Vailima 4 Art Lovers 5 The Girl from Eketahuna 6 A Passage to India 7 The Iron Lady 8 Chilling out with Pierre 9 A Portrait of the Artist 10 The Sun King of Nuku’alofa 11 Foreigner 12 Penny’s Garden 13 The Abolition of Slavery 14 Supping with the Ayatollah 15 The Official Companion 16 The Reluctant Diplomat 17 Couped up in Paradise 18 Stand by Your Woman 19 Coming Out 20 9/11


Joanna Woods was born in Dublin but has been based in New Zealand for many years. During her husband’s diplomatic career, she has lived in Bahrain,France, Greece, Iran, Italy,the United States and Russia, where she gained her doctorate on Katherine Mansfield from Moscow State University, subsequently published as Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (2001). She is also the author of Facing the Music: A Biography of Charles Baeyertz (2008).

Publication details

In-store: May 2013
Biography / Diplomacy / International Affairs
Paperback, 230 x 155 mm, 286 pp, illustrated throughout
ISBN 978 1 877578 30 4, $49.99