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Anna Rosenberg, first woman to receive Medal of Freedom

October 29, 1945
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In 1944, Anna Rosenberg served as President Franklin Roosevelt's personal representative in Europe and in 1945 President Harry Truman sent her to the European theater to study military personnel problems. This 1951 photograph with General George C. Marshall and Lyndon Johnson was taken in Washington, D.C.

Institution: Thomas Rosenberg


Acclaimed for her talents as a labor mediator, diplomat, adviser, troubleshooter, and administrator, Anna Rosenberg became the first woman to receive the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award offered by the United States, on October 29, 1945.

Born in Budapest in 1901, Rosenberg immigrated with her family to the United States in 1912. She began her political career by managing New York City alderman and assemblyman campaigns during the 1920s. In the 1930s, Rosenberg advised and coordinated several Democratic congressional campaigns and served in the New Deal administration as a regional director for the National Recovery Administration (1935) and on the Social Security Board (1936-1943). In the process, she became a trusted advisor to both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

During World War II, she served on the New York State War Council and, in 1944, served as Roosevelt’s personal representative in Europe. In 1945, she undertook a study of European military personnel problems as an advisor to Truman.

Further recognition and achievement followed the Medal of Freedom honor. In 1946, she won the Congressional Medal of Honor and in 1947, she became the first woman to be awarded the United States Medal for Merit. In 1950, she was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense, the highest position ever held up until that time by a woman in the United States military establishment. Her main task as Assistant Secretary of Defense was to coordinate the Defense Department's manpower, which had been divided among many different agencies.

Rosenberg was also involved in many Jewish causes, including serving as the director of the Women's Division of the Joint Distribution Committee and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Anna Rosenberg died of pneumonia on May 9, 1983.

To learn more about Anna Rosenberg, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

Sources: Jewish Women in America, pp. 1171-1174; http://www.nps.gov/elro/glossary/rosenberg-hoffman-anna.htm; www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/ARosenberg.html.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Anna Rosenberg, first woman to receive Medal of Freedom." (Viewed on April 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/oct/29/1945/anna-rosenberg>.