b. 29 December 1932, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Swenson studied at Northwestern University, developing her dramatic skills and especially her soprano singing voice. She appeared in New York in New Faces Of 1956 and then The First Gentleman (1959) before going to Hollywood where she was in the films Advise & Consent and The Miracle Worker (both 1962). In the mid-60s Swenson was back on Broadway, appearing in 110 In The Shade (1964), based by N. Richard Nash on his own The Rainmaker, a 1954 stage play and 1956 film. The songs, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, included ‘Love Don’t Turn Away’ and ‘Is It Really Me’, both of which were sung by Swenson as Lizzie Curry. Swenson was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress In A Musical. She also appeared in Baker Street (1965) and then it was back to films and Lipstick (1976) and The Betsy (1978).
On television from the late 50s, Swenson appeared in a number of dramas and also was in series and situation comedies, most notably as the tough-talking (and German-accented) housekeeper Miss Gretchen Kraus in Benson (1979-86). Among other shows in which she appeared in individual episodes are The Defenders (1962), Bonanza (1962 and 1963), Dr. Kildare (1962), The Rookies (1975), Barnaby Jones (1976 and 1978), Soap, playing Ingrid Swenson in seven episodes (1978), Hotel (1988), and The Golden Girls (1989). Among television films in which she appeared are Victoria Regina (1961), Androcles And The Lion (1967), My Father And My Mother (1968) and Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women (1978), in which she played the role of Nora Bayes. Swenson was also in several television mini-series, including Testimony Of Two Men (1977), North And South (1985), North And South, Book II (1986) and Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder (1987), as well as the series Doctor Doctor (1989).