Review: 'Mrs. Ambassador' by Mary Dupont
When President Harry Truman appointed Eugenie Anderson as ambassador to Denmark in 1949, she became the first woman to represent the U.S. as a diplomat. Because of that position, she was the person who signed the North Atlantic Pact, making her the first woman to sign an international treaty on behalf of the United States.
Her groundbreaking work in politics and her passionate life are the subject of the book "Mrs. Ambassador: The life and politics of Eugenie Anderson" by Mary Dupont, Anderson's granddaughter. The book was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in March 2019.
Dupont was able to research archives in the Minnesota Historical Society, Dakota County Public Library, Hennepin County Public Library, as well as interview family members and read stacks of family letters to gain an insight into Eugenie's life.
Eugenie Moore was born in 1909 in Adair, Iowa, to Ezekiel Arrowsmith Moore, a Methodist minister, and Flora Belle McMillen Moore. She grew up Iowa and began college there, but when she got a music scholarship to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., she transferred there where she met John Anderson, son of A.P. and Lydia Anderson of Red Wing. Eugenie and John were married soon after in a ceremony in the parsonage in Des Moines with her father officiating.
Dupont does an excellent job of developing their relationship throughout the book. John was an artist and struggled with alcohol. Eugenie developed her interest in music and politics and worked to find ways to help people. Their relationship is a thread that runs through a series of domestic and international settings.
"Eugenie Anderson wanted to be known for advocating democratic ideals," Dupont wrote. "If being the 'first woman' in any given role helped her spread the message of that goal, then it was useful. If representing women helped provide an example that all people, regardless of gender, color, race, or creed, could join the democratic process, then it was useful. But when those same situations—any emphasis on her femininity—jeopardized her very presence at the tables where policy was made and democracy was at state, then calling attention to her gender was not useful, and she blazed forward, relying on hard work, loyalty to her political sponsors, and the adept camouflaging of blatant sexist challenges"
In all that she did, Eugenie was concerned about human rights, according to Dupont. The ambassador worked hard to promote her ideals.
"While Eugenie dealt with sexism every day of her life, she employed every bit of personal stamina to keep its power over her to a minimum," Dupont wrote. "And she succeeded far more often than she failed."
Dupont takes the reader on a journey through Eugenie's life, from the time as ambassador in Denmark where the Danish people loved her, to a second diplomatic posting in Sophia, Bulgaria, during the Cold War, to an assignment with the United Nations, and eventually to a return to live her final years at Tower View in Red Wing.
About the book, former Vice President Walter Mondale, said, "Eugenie Anderson was one of the giants of the DFL Party—a gifted, scholarly, kindly, totally aware person. This smart look at her political and personal life explores the motivations and inspirations that equipped her to do battle on behalf of democracy, at home and around the world."