In 1961 Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke, the chief of protocol of the United States, sought a way to provide hospitality and information for the 1,300 diplomats living in the area. He charged Eleanor Israel with creating a new organization for this purpose, and Israel, Lillian Owen, Frances "Petey" McClintock, and Irena Roberts founded THIS (The Hospitality and Information Service) for Diplomats. Washington DC was then a segregated city and experiencing a large influx of diplomats from recently independent African countries; many of these newly arrived diplomats were refused service in area restaurants.
THIS for Diplomats provided services to diplomats and their families, including book discussions, bridge lessons, language lessons, cultural exchanges, an international play group, and hospitality visits to both the diplomats’ and volunteers’ homes. Volunteers also invited diplomats and their families for weekend brunches, backyard barbeques, and afternoon picnics through the home hospitality service.
One event that was always popular with diplomatic families was the annual celebration of Thanksgiving. Traditional offerings included turkey, bread stuffing, cornbread sausage dressing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin bread, cranberry sauce, and last but not least, apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie. Most planning committees for this event produced a recipe book for the participants to take home. One recipe packet included a brief history of the first Thanksgiving, as well as of Plymouth Colony.
Diplomatic families from Australia, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Ecuador, Portugal, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Suriname, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom and THIS for Diplomats volunteers came together to celebrate the American holiday that harkens back to the first harvest in Plymouth Colony in 1621.
To this day, THIS for Diplomats continues to celebrate annual Thanksgiving feasts with their diplomatic families. The records of THIS for Diplomats are newly processed and available for research; access the finding aid at https://hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu/repositories/8/resources/8292.