Anderson meets with agricultural workers in Bulgaria. During her tenure, she promoted American agricultural practices for the benefit of the Bulgarian people. From the Ghei family collection of John P. Anderson film and photography

#HerDiplomacy Spotlight:

Eugenie Anderson: People’s Diplomacy

I think I convinced them that I was not going to be just a gentle woman that they could push around.

— Eugenie Anderson, U.S. Minister to Bulgaria, 1962

Anderson speaks with women at a fish market in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her genuine interest in the lives of the people she met made her extremely popular.

Anderson speaks with women at a fish market in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her genuine interest in the lives of the people she met made her extremely popular.  From the Anderson family collection

People’s Diplomacy

People-to-people diplomacy is when diplomats meet directly with the citizens of their host country, rather than just with official representatives. This type of diplomacy builds strong relationships between nations, supporting trade and economic partnerships that advance prosperity.

Eugenie Anderson, America’s first female ambassador, was a pioneering practitioner of people-to-people diplomacy, which she called “people’s diplomacy.” As U.S. Ambassador to Denmark from 1949 to 1953 and U.S. Minister to Bulgaria from 1962 to 1964, Anderson engaged with the public to promote trade and strengthen economic ties.

#HerDiplomacy at NMAD

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote after decades of struggle, protest, and lobbying of state and federal governments. The right to vote was a vital step forward for women’s fuller participation in government and civil society. This participation also paved the way for increasing numbers of American women to serve their country in diplomatic capacities, representing their country at home and abroad.

With the #HerDiplomacy campaign, the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) is celebrating women in diplomacy — women who have blazed trails, negotiated peace, served alongside their partners, strengthened diplomatic relations, survived dangers, and opened doors for sharing of cultures and ideas. They have made vital contributions to our nation, but their stories remain largely unknown. Discover some of these dedicated women during Women’s History Month and throughout the year.

Standing Up to Authority

As U.S. Minister to Bulgaria, Eugenie Anderson faced constant surveillance, censorship, and harassment from communist authorities.

In 1962, she confronted Bulgarian officials after she learned that police were seizing pamphlets distributed by the U.S. Legation at an international trade fair. The pamphlet depicted in photos and text, the abundance of American life, showing well-stocked grocery stores, modern cities, and suburban single-family homes. The authorities backed down, saying they “didn’t know the Americans could be so tough.”

The following year, Anderson demanded that Bulgarian authorities replace the windows of the U.S. Legation after it was attacked by an angry mob spurred on by the government. Anderson routinely displayed images of cultural and intellectual freedom in the legation windows, and continued to do so even after the state-sponsored vandalism persisted.

U.S. Minister Eugenie Anderson drove through Bulgaria meeting locals in her personal Mercedes.

U.S. Minister Eugenie Anderson drove through Bulgaria meeting locals in her personal Mercedes. From the Ghei family collection of John P. Anderson film and photography

Despite intense intimidation by Bulgarian authorities, Anderson continued to meet with people face to face.

Despite intense intimidation by Bulgarian authorities, Anderson continued to meet with people face to face. From the Ghei family collection of John P. Anderson film and photography

Bulgarians browse photos of American life in the windows of the U.S. Legation in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1963.

Bulgarians browse photos of American life in the windows of the U.S. Legation in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1963. From the Ghei family collection of John P. Anderson film and photography