Medora Petersen Biography & Resources

Medora Belle Grandprey was born in 1896 in Meriden, Minnesota, the third of Samuel E. Grandprey and Hattie O. Hersey's five children. She attended Owatonna High School and Iowa State University, receiving a B.S. degree in 1924 and M.S. degree in 1929. She then taught high school in Algona, Iowa, and home economics at Iowa State University and Ohio State University.

Medora was a nutrition assistant at the nursery school of the Institute of Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota when she became engaged to Hjalmar Petersen, a widower with a young daughter. They were married in June 1934 at the Associated Church in Owatonna, in the midst of Petersen's campaign for lieutenant governor. The wedding was held on a Thursday evening as Petersen's newspaper, the Askov American, was published on Wednesdays. Their daughter Karla was born in April 1936.

To celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, the Petersens traveled through Denmark and elsewhere in Europe for two months in the fall of 1959 and wrote a series of travel articles for the Askov American. The newspaper also served as a political platform for Medora and Hjalmar's anti-war views, particularly during the Vietnam War, which they strongly opposed. Medora was involved with the Minnesota Chapter of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), which had been established in 1922, and served as a guest speaker for the organization.

In June 1964 the Petersens were invited to the White House in Washington, D.C. for a State Dinner given by President Lyndon Johnson for Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag of Denmark. Hjalmar Petersen died of a heart attack while visiting friends in Columbus, Ohio in 1968. Medora died in 1997 in Willmar, Minnesota at the age of 100. Both are buried in Askov, Minnesota.

Hjalmar Petersen papers, 1907-1968 (includes the Medora Petersen papers)