For as long as her granddaughters can remember, Ruth Anderson was working on her book.
“Mom would say, I don’t know that she’s ever gonna get her book done,” said granddaughter Elizabeth Spencer.
But at 88, Mrs. Anderson did. Her book, Whistleblower and Double Agents, was “straight out of a James Bond movie,” the Citrus County Chronicle reported in 2017. “It’s chock-full of intrigue, suspense, romance and action. And it all rings true because many of the events actually happened during her days at the NRC.”
Mrs. Anderson worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 1970s, when the commission admitted 200 pounds of uranium was missing — enough to make 10 atomic bombs, the New York Times reported at the time.
Mrs. Anderson — who had high-level security clearance, knew presidents and politicians, and later became a political organizer — was paying attention.
She died April 27 of natural causes. She was 93 and working on a memoir.
Mrs. Anderson grew up in Bethesda, Md., and though she’d been working in Washington since she was 15, followed the clearest path laid out for women in the 1940s — wife and mother.
After divorce, she rejoined the workforce, and her shorthand skills got her a job in the federal government, said friend Joan Miller. Mrs. Anderson worked for Sen. Russell Long (D-LA), cabinet heads and eventually, the Atomic Energy Commission.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Mrs. Anderson kept bags packed by the front door.
“Where are you going to go?” her daughter, Susan, asked.
“I don’t know, but if I get called, I have to leave.”
By 1973, she was working as a technical writer for the NRC. When Congress noticed that the agency was mostly made up of men, Mrs. Anderson was given a new job.
“A top manager came into my office and told me I would be responsible for recruiting and training women to work there,” she told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002.
“By the time her own career ended in 1984, Anderson was the manager of the Federal Women’s Program at the NRC…” the Times reported. “A memorabilia wall in her home office has pictures showing her with presidents, senators, cabinet members and astronauts. Her security clearance at the NRC was higher than top secret.”
“She was hitting the glass ceiling before it was popular to do it,” Miller said.
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During her career, Mrs. Anderson won awards and trained women to work in the military and at U.S. embassies. After retiring, she moved to Homosassa. She remarried and stayed active in local politics as a lifelong Democrat.
“She and I finally agreed not to discuss politics,” Miller said.
But Mrs. Anderson did not have that agreement with everyone and often wrote letters to the editors of the Citrus County Chronicle and the Times. (Her granddaughters found an angry note from Sarah Palin among their grandmother’s things.)
“Of course, she has friends and enemies, which is true if you’re in politics at all,” Miller said.
In 2001, Mrs. Anderson helped form the Sugarmill Woods Democratic Club; she was head of the Citrus County Democratic Party for six years.
Every afternoon at 3, Mrs. Anderson had a Stoli with water and a squeeze of orange. She worked on her book at night, Miller said, and filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get documents from the FBI. Finally, in 2016, it was published by Peppertree Press. It’s a work of fiction built from real events.
“I interviewed the whistleblower for two days at my house and was haunted by the stories for years,” Mrs. Anderson told the Chronicle. “You see, the ‘whistleblower’ found out exactly what happened to the uranium — who was involved and which country received the uranium. Now, the world will know.”
In the last few years, when her granddaughters would ask about her life and exploits, Mrs. Anderson always had the same answer.
“She said it would be in her new book, and we could read it there,” Lauren Biddle said.
She and her sister have the manuscript, and they plan to do as told.
Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.
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