Mary Teresa Hopkins Norton (1875-1959)
Mary Norton was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on March 7, 1875. Her parents, devout Catholics, had immigrated from Ireland before Norton was born. Her father worked construction and, before she married Robert Norton, Mary worked as a governess. She attended Packard Business College, graduating in 1896, and became the protégé of Mayor Frank Hague, a political boss in Jersey City. Her career in the House of Representatives included a number of firsts: She was the first congresswoman from an eastern state, the first Democratic congresswoman to be elected (1924), the first congresswoman to head a major committee (House Committee on the District of Columbia, 1932-1937), and the first woman to head a state party organization (New Jersey Democratic Committee, 1932-35 and again in 1940-1944). Throughout her career, Norton worked closely with ER, often running campaigns, organizing women's get-out-the-vote efforts, and supporting fair labor practices. Soon the women became good friends, as well as political colleagues.
As the representative of the working class 12th District of New Jersey, Norton defended labor and argued for equal treatment for women workers. As chair of the House Labor Committee (1934-1947) she struggled to implement the Fair Labor Standards Act, extend the Lanham Act, and defeat the Taft-Hartley Act. Although she was a strong supporter of equal pay for equal work, she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1945, she asked to be appointed to the delegation to the United Nations organizing conference in San Francisco, but Truman instead named her as an alternate delegate to the International Labor Organizing Conference in Paris. She was also a member of the Democratic National Committee. She retired from Congress in 1951, and died in Greenwich, Connecticut, on August 2, 1959.
Green, Carol Hurd and Barbara Sicherman, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980, 511-513.
Eleanor Roosevelt to Lorena Hickok, April 5, 1945, Lorena Hickok Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.