Eugenie Moore Anderson emerged as a trailblazer for American women in international diplomacy during the post-World War II era. In 1949 she became the first American woman to hold the rank of ambassador.
Helen Eugenie Moore, who went by Eugenie, was born in Adair, Iowa, in 1909. After attending Simpson College, she left Iowa and transferred to Carleton College in Northfield, where she planned on starting a career in music. At Carleton, she met art student John Pierce Anderson. They married a year later.
Anderson and her husband lived and studied in New York City until 1932, when they returned to Minnesota. They moved to Tower View farm near Red Wing, the home of John's parents, Dr. Alexander and Mrs. Lydia Anderson. The younger Andersons lived on Tower View's east side, where they raised two children, Johanna and Hans.
Eugenie Anderson was deeply affected by a trip to Europe in 1937, where she witnessed the rise of fascism in Germany. She saw a group of uniformed five-year-old boys goose stepping in lock step as she entered the totalitarian country. She reported that she was sickened and frightened by the sight. The twenty-seven-year-old housewife was determined to speak out against the potential danger she saw in Europe. She began studying global and domestic issues and joined the League of Women Voters in 1938.
In 1944 Anderson joined Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. She linked with a group of young, talented DFL leaders later described as "Cold War liberals". Besides Anderson, this band included future state and national notables Hubert H. Humphrey, Arthur E. Naftalin, and Orville L. Freeman. Strong anti-communists, Anderson and her allies defeated the pro-Soviet wing of the DFL. They also opposed American isolationists who feared foreign political and military entanglements. Anderson became a Democratic national committeewoman in 1948. Later that year, she was a Minnesota delegate-at-large to the national Democratic convention.
Anderson helped President Harry Truman win reelection in 1948 by campaigning for him across the state. In doing so, the Red Wing woman gained the attention of national party leaders.
In 1949, the president chose her as ambassador to Denmark. This move made Eugenie Anderson the United States' first woman to become an ambassador. The Minnesotan said her appointment demonstrated that women could be recognized for their public work—not just their roles as women and mothers.
When Anderson renewed the commerce and friendship agreement between the U.S. and Denmark in 1950, she became the first American woman to sign a formal diplomatic agreement. In 1951, she signed an important treaty that allowed the U.S. to use Danish airbases in Greenland. Anderson won the respect of Danish people by learning the language, making radio addresses, and riding a bike, as ordinary Danes did.
Ambassador Anderson resigned her post in 1953. She remained active in political and civic causes, running for, but not winning, the 1958 DFL nomination for U.S. senator.
John F. Kennedy became president in 1961. He later asked Anderson to be his minister to Bulgaria. With her appointment the United States sent a woman diplomat behind the Cold War's Iron Curtain for the first time. Anderson's hosts were hostile to the forceful American representative. In one instance, officials tried to stop her from making a Fourth of July television speech by requiring that it be given in Bulgarian. Anderson thwarted communist attempts to silence her by mastering the language well enough to give the talk. Anderson submitted her resignation to President Lyndon Johnson in November 1964 and returned home to Red Wing.
The next year, Johnson chose Anderson to represent the United States on the United Nations Trusteeship Council. She also served on the U.N. Security Council, becoming the first woman to do so.
Anderson also proved an effective campaigner for her DFL colleague Hubert H. Humphrey. The senator ran for president in 1960 and 1968 with her support.
Anderson returned to Minnesota at the end of her U.N. service. She remained politically active, campaigning for some state candidates in the 1980s, but lived fairly quietly for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 1997, at age eighty-seven.
Angell, Madeline. Red Wing, Minnesota: Saga of a River Town. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1977.
Anderson, Eugenie M. Papers, c.1910–1973
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Contains DFL memos, campaign literature, Hubert Humphrey's 1968 presidential campaign, and personal correspondence.
See Box 1 "Copenhagen Files, 1949-1953," for information about the ambassadorial appointment process and correspondence about Anderson's appointment and her time in Denmark.
"Anderson, Eugenie Moore." Des Moines Register, March 12, 2007.
Blegen, Theodore. Minnesota: A History of the State. second edition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1975.
Calkin, Homer L. Women in the Department of State: Their Role in American Foreign Affairs. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Deputy Under-Secretary for Management, Department of State, 1978.
Haynes, John Earl. Dubious Alliance: The Making of the Minnesota DFL Party. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Hedin, Lydia E., Jean M. Chesley, John P. Anderson and Louise A. Sargent. Alexander P. Anderson, 1862–1943. West St. Paul: Sexton Printing, 1997.
Johnson, Frederick L. Goodhue County: A Narrative History. Red Wing: Goodhue County Historical Society, 2000.
Lamson, Peggy. Few Are Chosen: American Women in Political Life Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968.
Leavitt, Judith A. American Women Managers and Administrators: A Selective Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Leaders in Business, Education, and Government. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.
Leiser, Ernest. "Denmark's American Sweetheart." Saturday Evening Post 223 (May 5, 1951): 30–31.
Luther, Sally. "Ambassador Anderson Steps from Housewife Role with Minimum Fanfare." Christian Science Monitor (October 25, 1949): 4.
Nash, Phillip. "Ambassador Eugenie Anderson." Minnesota History 59 (Summer 2005) 249–262. http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/59/v59i06p249-262.pdf
O'Dea, Suzanne. "Anderson, Eugenie Moore." The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009.
Stowe, Leland. "Eugenie Anderson Shows the Flag." Reader's Digest 86 (March 1965): 173–181.
"U.S. Ambassadors." TIME 58 (December 31, 1965): 15.
In 1949, Eugenie Anderson is appointed ambassador to Denmark, making her the first American woman to hold the rank of ambassador.
On May 26, Eugenie Moore is born in Adair, Iowa.
A student of music, Moore transfers to Carleton College in Northfield.
Moore marries fellow student John P. Anderson.
Eugenie Anderson and her husband move to Tower View Farm in Red Wing.
During a European trip, Anderson is disturbed by Germany's repressive government and decides to take a bigger part in civic affairs in Minnesota.
After working with the League of Women Voters, the local school board and other civic organizations, Anderson joins the Democratic Party.
Anderson is a delegate-at-large for Minnesota in the Democratic National Convention and is also a national committeewoman.
Anderson serves as United States ambassador to Denmark.
Runs for the U.S. Senate DFL nomination, losing to Eugene McCarthy.
President Kennedy makes Anderson his minister to Bulgaria.
President Johnson selects Anderson to serve on several United Nations committees, including the Security Council.
Anderson retires from her post at the United Nations to assist Hubert Humphrey with his presidential campaign.
Anderson dies at her home in Red Wing on March 31.