Wife and Baggage to Follow contains first hand stories of overseas postings in the words of Australian diplomats’ wives.
It offers an eye opening journey through the early decades of the service, starting with the experiences of Australia’s first wife of a Head of Mission in Washington, and continuing to the likes of Beirut, Moscow, Rangoon, Cairo, Tokyo, Dili and Saigon.
Author Rachel Miller tells her own stories and those of many others, the unacknowledged leading ladies whose “stage was was the world”, and the unexpected privations and adventures which befell these women. They were the pioneers, often travelling with young children in tow, who had to adapt to difficult, often dangerous, and inevitably unusual circumstances.
There are stories of watching Saigon burn from the roof of the Embassy at night during the Tet offensive, or having a brown snake fall from the ceiling and onto the dining room table during a formal dinner in Dili, and living in Jakarta in the early Sixties, when the British Embassy was burnt during unsettled times after the Federation of Malaysia was formed.
Some of these intrepid women, leaving Australia for the first time, arrived in world trouble spots and places where it was hard to find basic family necessities, such as food, toiletries and even soap. It is the story of mothers trying to ensure the safety and health of their young children as well as the smooth running of their households and the day-to-day domestic life in the Missions, of formal entertaining in unusual circumstances, of friendships formed, and long journeys travelled. Continuing to more recent times, it traces the evolution of a young foreign service as it became better organised and increasingly professional, and the evolving role of women within it.