Red Wing, MN - Home to the First Female U.S. Ambassador

Red Wing, MN - Home to the First Female U.S. Ambassador Main Photo

5 Mar 2024

Red Wing, Minnesota is rich in women’s history. This month, the Red Wing Port Authority is highlighting the legacy of Eugenie Anderson, the first American Woman to serve as a U.S. ambassador – and who called Red Wing home.

Liz Schmidt, an archivist at the Goodhue County Historical Society, shared her extensive knowledge of Ambassador Anderson’s history and how her time in Red Wing contributed to the city’s legacy.

Ambassador Anderson’s Red Wing Roots

Eugenie Anderson was born in 1909 in rural Iowa but studied music at Stephens College in Missouri, Simpson College in Iowa, and Carleton College in Minnesota. During her time at Carelton, she met and married John Pierce Anderson from Red Wing. She and John, a fellow artist, lived in New York City until 1932 when they moved to Red Wing, settling at Tower View, the Anderson family farm. John’s father, Alexander Anderson, was a prominent figure with Quaker Oats, due to his invention of puffed rice, which eventually became Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice breakfast foods.

As a 1930’s woman, mother of two, and farmer’s wife, Eugenie Anderson was often dismissed as an ordinary housewife. However, with her educational background and interest in the arts and sciences, she was well-primed to pursue a political career. It wasn’t until after a 1937 trip to Germany that Eugenie began feeling stirred by the desire to pursue a career in government. During her trip, Eugenie reported feeling sickened and afraid at the sight of five-year-old boys in army uniforms. Fascism was on the rise, and Eugenie was there to witness it. Upon her return home to Red Wing, she was dedicated to speaking out about the political dangers she observed in Germany. She began studying global politics and joined the League of Women Voters.

On her journey to becoming politically active in Red Wing, Anderson met Hubert H. Humphrey, who would later become the Vice President of the United States. As she rose through the ranks, Anderson became a national committeewoman in 1948, and shortly after transitioned to being a  Minnesota delegate-at-large. After helping President Truman win his reelection campaign, she attracted the interest of high-level political leaders in the U.S. and beyond. Finally, in 1949, President Truman appointed her as an ambassador to Denmark – the first female ambassador in the United States.

Anderson’s work as an ambassador spanned several decades. She learned several languages, including Danish, which allowed her to negotiate the use of air bases in Greenland for the U.S. Air Force. Despite a long and rewarding political career, it was Red Wing where Ambassador Anderson chose to settle and enjoy her retirement before she passed away in 1997.

A Political Legacy in Red Wing

According to Red Wing-based Archivist Liz Schmidt, Eugenie Anderson’s legacy paved the way for many other women in Red Wing to become politicians. Included on this list is the notable Joanell Dyrstad, who was both Mayor of Red Wing and later Lieutenant Governor. The League of Women Voters, which Anderson was heavily involved in, is still active in Minnesota today. This March, Eugenie Anderson will be inducted into the Red Wing Women’s Network Hall of Fame.

Ambassador Anderson’s work left a lasting impact on the community of Red Wing. The city is proud to recognize the history of American heroes who have chosen Red Wing as their home. To learn more about why Red Wing is the ideal choice for families and expanding businesses, get in touch with us here.

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