Maud “Evangeline” Rasmuson Atwood was born in Sitka in 1906 to missionary teachers Jenny and Edward Rasmuson, who lived at Yakutat. Her father, a Danish-borne Swede, came to Alaska in 1903 as a missionary teacher for the Swedish Covenant church. After going Outside for additional schooling, he obtained a law degree to become a lawyer. After returning to Alaska, he founded the Bank of Alaska in 1917 (later known as the National Bank of Alaska), and became one of Alaska’s most successful bankers. Evangeline earned a B.A. from the University of Washington and an M.A. in social services administration from the University of Chicago. She met newspaper man Robert Atwood in Springfield, Illinois and married him in 1932. In 1935, they moved to Anchorage to become owners and operators of the Anchorage Daily Times, later the Anchorage Times.
Evangeline Atwood turned her energies into community and public service after the birth of her daughters, Marilyn Jeanette Atwood and Sara “Elaine” Atwood. While Anchorage was growing in the 1940s and 1950s, Evangeline worked to ensure that civic organizations were in place to influence development. For over 50 years, she played a leading role in more civic organizations and public enterprises than perhaps anyone else in her time. She was active in organizing such community groups as the Cook Inlet Historical Society and the Anchorage Parent-Teacher Council (now the Anchorage Parent-Teachers Association). She organized the Anchorage Chapter of the League of the Women Voters in 1950 and served as president and state director. She was a past president of the Anchorage Women’s Club, the Alaska Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Alaska Statehood Association. In 1958, she founded the Alaska World Affairs Council and served as its executive director. She also served on the boards of the Alaska YWCA World Service Council, the Alaska Historical Commission, the Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Commission, and the state advisory board for the Institute of Northern Agriculture.
As a major supporter and benefactor of the arts in Anchorage, Evangeline Atwood was a founder or early advocate of the Anchorage Opera Association, Anchorage Community Theatre, Alaska Repertory Theatre and the Alaska Light Opera Theatre. For many years she held a presidential appointment as Alaska’s representative on the advisory board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Evangeline Atwood’s interest in Alaska history, politics and journalism led her to write seven books. She wrote two histories of Anchorage, the first Anchorage, All-American City (1957) and the second, Anchorage, Star of the North (1982). Her interest in the Matanuska Colony project, in which two hundred families from Minnesota and Wisconsin were resettled in the Matanuska Valle in 1935, led to the publication of We Shall Be Remembered (1986). Evangeline also published Frontier Politics: Alaska’s James Wickersham (1979), a biography of territorial judge and longtime U.S. Congressional delegate James Wickersham. Her first book was 83 Years of Neglect (1950), which described Alaska’s struggle for statehood. In addition to her historical writings, she completed an unpublished manuscript on the history of Alaska newspapers; it was updated and published as Bent Pins to Chains: Alaska and its Newspapers (2006) with Lew Williams.
In 1967, Evangeline received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the University of Alaska, and the following year was elected to the Alaska Press Club’s 49er Hall of Fame. For her efforts, the Alaska Historical Society named her Historian of the Year in 1975. In 1981, she was named Alaskan of the Year in a statewide poll. In 1982, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Alaska Pacific University. Additionally, the Atwood Concert Hall, the largest theater in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, is named for Evangeline Atwood.
The sponsor of the Evangeline Cabin is the Atwood Foundation.