Semester of Graduation

Summer 2018


Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



The established methods and practices of American public diplomacy are commonly credited to the publicity agencies created during and after the Second World War, such as the Office of War Information (OWI) and the United States Information Agency (USIA). However, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was the first practicing public diplomacy agency. Created by President Woodrow Wilson in April 1917, the CPI and its Foreign Division became a tool for winning the First World War through the dissemination of newspaper articles, films, photographs, and other media techniques. The CPI was the first of its kind to engage with the people on behalf of the US government and to shape European public opinion and promote American war aims. Although the CPI was a trailblazing organization, it met problems and challenges during its foreign mission. Resistance on behalf of the State Department, poor management from the top-down, and unpredictable circumstances for representatives are all examples that serve to illustrate the uneasy beginnings of public diplomacy. This thesis will examine the efforts of Vira B. Whitehouse, who served as the director of the CPI office in Berne, Switzerland. The case study of a New York suffragist turned public affairs officer demonstrates the setbacks and challenges of early public diplomacy, such as strife with the Legation, poor management from Washington, and working in a male-dominated field.



Committee Chair

Hamilton, John