After graduating from Smith College in 1934, Julia
McWilliams worked for several years as a secretary and ad copywriter in New York. In the late 1930s she moved back to California, and in 1942 decided to take the Civil Service exam in order to serve the war effort. The same year she moved to Washing-ton, D.C., and began working as a typist for the Office of War Information in the Department of State. She soon transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she performed filing and other general office duties.
In 1944 Julia was one of several OSS men and women who traveled overseas to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on assignment. It was there that she met Paul Cushing Child, who was also serving in the OSS. In 1945, Julia and Paul were among a group transferred to Kunming, China, where Julia’s interest in food was awakened. At the end of the war, Julia returned to Washington, D.C