Karen Olsen Beck

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Karen Olsen Beck
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica
In office
Ambassador of Costa Rica to Israel
In office
President Luis Alberto Monge
First Lady of Costa Rica
In role
May 8, 1970 – May 8, 1974
President José Figueres Ferrer
Preceded by Clara Fonseca Guardia
Succeeded by Marjorie Elliott Sypher
First Lady of Costa Rica
In role
February 7, 1954[1] – May 8, 1958
President José Figueres Ferrer
Preceded by Henrietta Boggs Long
Vacant (1949–1954)
Succeeded by Olga De Benedictis Antonelli
Personal details
Born Rita Karen Olsen
(1933-01-31) January 31, 1933 (age 85)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Political party PLN
Spouse(s) José Figueres Ferrer (1954–1990; his death)
Alma mater Columbia University
University of Copenhagen
University of Mary Washington
Profession Diplomat
Social worker

Rita Karen Olsen Beck (born January 31, 1933 Copenhagen, Denmark)[2] is a Danish American-Costa Rican diplomat, politician and social worker. She has served as the First Lady of Costa Rica during the governments of her husband Jose Figueres Ferrer 1954-1958 and 1970–1974, a Legislative Assemblywoman and the Ambassador of Costa Rica to Israel.[3]


Olsen was born Rita Karen Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark.[1] Her parents, Walter Olsen and Karen Beck Olsen, had emigrated to the United States from Denmark and became naturalized U.S. citizens.[1] She is a native of Yorktown Heights, New York.[1]

From an early age she exhibited great interest for social issues. While a student at Mary Washington College, now known as the University of Mary Washington, she was involved in several movements promoting solidarity and the defense of the needy.[4] After graduating from Mary Washington College, Olsen enrolled at the University of Copenhagen to study social sciences.[1] She then received a Master of Arts in sociology from Columbia University in New York City.[1]

She married the then-President of Costa Rica, José Figueres Ferrer, on February 7, 1954, becoming the country's First Lady.[1] Olsen was 23 years old at the time of the wedding, while Figueres was 47.[1] The ceremony was performed at the home of Figueres' brother, Antonio Figueres, by Archbishop Ruben Odio Herrera.[1] President Figueres had divorced his first wife, former First Lady Henrietta Boggs, on January 1, 1954.[1]

With Figueres she had four children, including José María, also president of Costa Rica 1994–1998; and Christiana Figueres, a specialist in environment and climate change, who is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.