We are part of a belief that better international cooperation and understanding can be achieved through working together, developing mutual respect, and applying economic reasoning to the issues facing all.
When some of the “best and the brightest ” from around the world came to IMF headquarters in Washington, DC,in the late 1940’s to carry out those ideals, they brought their spouses and children to Washington. Although there were efforts over the years to welcome families, the first organized association and office was created to meet the needs in 1976; hence our 40th birthday.
I arrived in 1969, a young American bride straight out of University with a brilliant but unproven German husband. I brought with me the small town values which were from the world I knew: connection, cohesiveness, mutual support, and enlightenment, I found a world of anonymity and isolation, especially when my husband left on his first mission.
Job hunting without local references proved difficult; driving in a big city; having no family and few friends at first–all led to more than a little challenge. My husband worked every holiday and weekend for two years to finish his Ph.D dissertation, after a steep but exciting learning curve of an IMF workweek and mission travel.
His stimulating job made me feel proud of him but wondering how I could share in his goals. For I was a baby-boomer child of the 1960’s, inspired by John Kennedy and Martin Luther King to have dreams, even dreams of leadership for women.
Various IMF spouses reached out to me and others, including Mrs. Schweitzer with her annual staff spouse reception at her home, the inspirational first time I met my fellow spouses. The annual Fund Holiday party and picnic were other important occasions to see the entire group of Fund spouses. Mrs. Ernest Sturc asked me to help organize a successful series of seminars in the Fund, at the time a slightly controversial location for spouse activities, with speakers of interest to both staff and spouses.
The IMF/World Bank annual meetings were a chance to participate in hospitality programs to welcome delegates’ spouses from around the world. I will never forget sitting in head of the World Bank Robert McNamara’s living room, as a very young spouse instructed to say nothing(!), with Mrs. Margaret McNamara and other IMF and World Bank ladies planning the Annual Meeting spouse hospitality program.
Debby Dale, wife of Deputy Managing Director Bill Dale, urged the creation of an office and organization similar to the WIVES group of the World Bank, but at the IMF. There was an ever-increasing awareness of the need to address issues affecting families, such as visa and employment issues, teens going off visas,mission travel during late pregnancy or baby birth, health of returnees from mission, isolation of assignments, and sudden illness and death of staff member and its impact on family finances and visa status.
There was a growing awareness among individuals that spouses as a group needed to develop an esprit d’corps and increase respect for and awareness of their conditions. Hence, The IMF family group was born.
Over its 40 years, I believe IMFFA’s purpose and mission can be summarized in the five V’s: 1) Visibility, through education and action; 2) Voice, through Chronicles and issue discussion participation with the IMF; 3) Veto Power, the right to say “No” to unfair policies pertaining to spouses and families; 4) Victim Assistance, the duty to protect our members suffering from domestic violence; and 5) Volunteerism, returning the generosity of the IMF for its financial and other assistance by volunteering our various skills in areas that benefit our community and the world.
Lastly, by looking around as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the IMF family association I see the verification of the vision. We all have so much in common in our desire to create harmonious families in a peaceful world, despite differences in beliefs and background. IMFFA is a successful fulfillment of part of the noble experiment begun with the creation of the IMF so many years ago.
Congratulation to us all!