Anne Carlsen was born in Grantsburg, Wisconsin without forearms or lower legs. Nevertheless, she had an active childhood, and went to college at the University of Minnesota, intending to become a teacher. In 1938, she moved to Fargo for a job at the Good Samaritan School for Crippled Children. Carlsen moved with the school when it relocated to Jamestown. She was named the school's administrator in 1950, and the school was renamed the Anne Carlsen Center in her honor in 1980. She received the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award in 1966.