Win Hooper was an artist—a very good artist. But to narrowly confine her art to the products of paint brushes is to do her an injustice. Her artistry extended to the pictures she painted with her words. Even if you were not fortunate enough to know Win and her husband, John, or even to have any first-hand knowledge of the events of the 1960’s and 1970’s involving Rhodesia and U.S. foreign policy, you quickly will come to know … and understand the history of that period through her elegant, witty, picturesque, perceptive, self-effacing, sometimes a bit naughty, and always informative and engaging letters to her family.
Title: Win in Washington
Book size: 250mm x 170mm
Pages: 400 Pages black and white
RSA Price: R485 plus postage (postage by SA Post Office Speed Service R50 or PostNet courier R100)
USA Price: $40 plus postage (postage quoted upon request – discounts for bulk orders)
Thank you, Tony Hooper, for your diligence in bringing us this absolutely extraordinary book. The writings of your beloved and talented mother Win Hooper, in her almost daily letters home to you and her daughter Deirdre and family in Inyanga. It now resides in a place of honour, beside my bed and sends me off to sleep every night with a contented chuckle, a warm feeling of empathy or utter amazement at every priceless snippet I have discovered each night.
From lunches with Supreme Court Justices, to the wives of Presidents Win captures each with the deliciously detailed observation of the great artist she was. From the irresistible temptation of a “Thanksgiving luncheon and pineapples lying on their sides, with a turkey’s head attached” to the view from the top storey window which looked down on “a gentleman in a cocked hat, perched on a prancing horse, which itself is perched on a plinth” and a nearby fountain “with a chilly nude lady clutching something-or-other which drips water.”
These wonderful observations of course mask the extraordinary job Win and her husband John Hooper did, operating one of the only ‘almost legitimate’ Rhodesian information offices still ‘sort of’ operating after the declaration of UDI (the Uniliteral Declaration of Independence) by Southern Rhodesia in 1965.
Both the Hoopers had the gift of friendship and hospitality and this they used unstintingly in entertaining every useful American political high up (from Kissinger to Carter), to every visiting dignity who might in any possible way be coerced to extend some degree of acceptance, and therefore help, to the Rhodesian case. Both of them became ‘must have’ interviewees, for the Washington and wider American media in as far as the political world would allow, by creating a ‘cause celebre’ which fascinated and intrigued – and achieved outcomes which would simply not have been available otherwise. Always with such a sense of fun.
“I’ve been visited by a gentleman armed with a questionnaire” who “wanted to know about the girl who lives with her parents across the street. In other words he is an official snooper.” Then “a man from the FBI called to ask about a man up the street who had applied for a job at the State Dept. I thought it rather amusing that a Rhodesian should be asked if he was suitable or not!”
From a lunch with President Nixon’s wife, to friendship with Kissinger to endless grand soirees as they sought to make critical contacts, Win also gives careless insight into the dangers of the office among the chapter of events in 1970. “I was standing in shattered glass in John’s offices, while a battered air-conditioner hummed bravely on. I have no doubt that the Rhodesia Herald has made the most of the fact that we were bombed. I don’t know what eccentricity it is in us, but your Pa and I become rather stimulated on these occasions. Perhaps it was the overwhelming relief that no one was injured and the damage was relatively slight. Now at least, the powers-that-be will let us have the office painted! Actually, it has been suggested that the State Dept. are hoping that we are sufficiently intimidated to leave. Not bloody likely.”
The sub-headings for 1970 alone make intriguing reading.
Dinner at the Embassy; Rhodesia Becomes a Republic; Reactions to the Republic & Ken dines with the President; Postal and telegraphic links to Rhodesia severed; Lunch with the diplomats’ wives; Prince Charles visit; Admiral Baker and his wife Ginny; My paintings of children; Our office is bombed; Kenneth Kaunda in a huff; John Akar, Ambassador for Sierra Leone; Rhodesia Independence Day Party; Children’s portraits; Capitol Hill Speakers’ luncheon; a weekend in New York; visit to West Point; Pre Christmas Party.
As they were leaving to go home, the gathering of the glitterati of the media, politics and new friends covered 24 hours of continuous and fond farewells to this immensely popular, yet bewildering, sophisticated, and erudite couple. Win has captured it superbly and those who knew and loved her, will hear her voice in every sentence.
Her PS to the farewells:
“One of my last going-away presents was from young Robert Zuckerman next door. He gave me
1) a Jimmy Carter campaign button
2) a comb
3) a packet of Loving Care hair tint
Get hold of a copy if you possibly can, it will be worth every cent and much, much more.