In 1914, there were five female clerks appointed to serve the Diplomatic Service in overseas posts, out of 55 clerks stationed abroad (9%).1 One such clerk was Ann Singleton, a woman ahead of her times. Born around 1877 in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, Singleton dreamed of seeing the world, and took up secretarial work as a means of doing so. She worked as a stenographer, typewriter, and secretary, before being appointed as a clerk in the Diplomatic Service and assigned to U.S. Embassy Paris on September 1, 1912.
Biographical Statement, Ann Singleton
Registar of the Department of State, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1915
Singleton saved up $600 from her work at the embassy, a sum she planned to use to tour the world. She earmarked her journey to start in Fall 1914, however, the outbreak of hostilities in August quickly derailed her trip. Instead, Singleton remained in Paris for several more months, and provided much-needed assistance as the embassy’s responsibilities multiplied.
Singleton returned to the United States but found herself once again in France a few years later. When General John J. Pershing, Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), arrived in Paris on June 13, 1917, “she was one of two women waiting at the Paris train station for Pershing to arrive. The other woman was a newspaper reporter.” 2 Singleton served as Pershing’s private secretary for the remainder of the war.
Upon the war’s end in November 1918, she again departed France for the United States to work and save money. Singleton finally began her much-delayed trip around the world in September 1921, departing Seattle for Honolulu and then Japan. For the next decade, Singleton traveled (and worked) the world, and gave lectures on “Circling the Globe on One’s Own.” In 1931, she returned to Washington, and took a job with the War Department, where she worked until her retirement many years later.