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Eleanor Holmes Norton

MAKERS Profile

U.S. Congresswoman, District of Columbia

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Congresswoman Norton on growing up in segregation, pursuing law to make change, and advocating women's rights as Equal Opportunity Commission chair and later, as a United States Congresswoman.

Eleanor's Biography

Cause Of Choice:Statehood for the District of Columbia and DC Vote.
Coffee Break:“I’ve never met a man who had the nerve to ask me to make his coffee.”
Amazing Mentors:Shirley Chisholm, Dorothy Height, Fanny Lou Hamer.
Growing Up in an All-Female Household:“By the time you go and meet men, we say, ‘who are these people? What, are they supposed to be competing with me? Come on.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, now in her twelfth term as the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia, knew from a young age she wanted to make change to end the severe segregation and discrimination she experienced growing up as third generation Washingtonian.
 
While earning a law degree as well as a Masters in American Studies from Yale University, Norton became deeply involved as an organizer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), traveling to Mississippi for the Mississippi Summer Project and witnessing severe violence on civil rights leaders including Fannie Lou Hamer that would inform the rest of her lifelong struggle for universal human and civil rights.
 
Following graduate school, Norton continued her work to end social inequality. She signed the Black Women’s Manifesto, a classic document of the black feminist movement, and became the assistant legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
 
In 1970, Norton was appointed the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission and not only held the first comprehensive hearings on woman’s rights but was also the driving force behind the landmark sex discrimination suit at Newsweek. Before the case settled, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to serve as the first woman to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
 
Norton, who taught law full time before being elected, is a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University. Yale Law School has awarded her the Citation of Merit for outstanding alumni, and Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has awarded her the Wilbur Cross Medal for outstanding alumni, the highest awards conferred by each on alumni. She is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees.
 
The Congresswoman is currently the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. She serves on two committees: the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
 

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