1993 to 1997: US. Ambassador to Austria

My four-year tenure in Vienna was a success: to Austrians, I was a “refreshing American.” I had a weekly newspaper column and a monthly radio spot. In a shocking departure from protocol, top officials and cab drivers called me “Swanee.”

While I fulfilled my diplomatic duties representing U.S. interests to Austria and its people, they fully appreciated that I was driven day and night to stop a horrific war as Yugoslavia, our neighbor, fell apart.

witnessWitness (1994)

My photographs, organized around common human values of innocence, bonding, vitality, hardship, wisdom and solitude, were exhibited in a dozen places. A set was featured in a US paper, with my journal documenting a week in war-wrecked Sarajevo.

View the photo essay, Window on Sarajevo: A Personal View

A Bosnian woman holds a cloth embroidered with the name of a loved one who perished in Srebrenica.

Remembering Srebrenica (1996)

“If there’s one more thing you can do, remember the survivors of Srebrenica.” The speaker was a Serb, from the ethnic group that perpetrated the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Everyone I asked to help commemorate the victims said yes, including Queen Noor of Jordan. When I asked a grieving Muslim widow if we could invite Serb women, she said, “We are all mothers.”

Vital Voices (1997)

We organized three days to promote East-West learning, with 320 women leaders in business, law, and politics. The meeting spawned the award-winning PBS film “Voices;” an initiative co-led by First Lady Clinton and Secretary of State Albright; and a robust non-profit organization.


Rather than try to fit into the feminine equivalent of a diplomat’s pinstriped suit, I decided to refashion the job… to forge paths into this new frontier, paths that others could follow. Transforming my worst fears into a vision based on strengths, I was ready to take on the unknown.S.H.