Home 9 Biographies 9 Mary Teresa Norton

Mary Teresa Norton

Mary Teresa Norton (1875-1959), a Jersey City social worker, became the first woman to serve on the Democratic State Committee.

She held the position between the years of 1921 and 1944 and served alternatively as either chair or vice-chair. Earlier in her career, Norton helped to launch the Queen’s Daughter’s Day Nursery, a nonsectarian daycare center for children of working women. She worked at the center for fifteen years, twelve of those years as its president.

In 1923, the Hudson County Board of Freeholders elected Norton as its first Democratic woman freeholder. In 1924 Norton represented the Twelfth Congressional District of New Jersey in the House of Representatives. This win set Norton apart as the first Democratic woman elected to Congress without her husband proceeding her. She was also the first woman elected from an eastern state.

Throughout her career, Norton advocated for full female political participation. She fought for the rights of fellow women as voters, party members, and candidates for office and challenged patriarchy in American politics. In 1946, Norton received the “Woman of Achievement” award from the Women’s National Press Club as a tribute to her successful career and steadfast dedication to the cause of female empowerment.



Porter, David L. Mary Norton of New Jersey: Congressional Trailblazer. Vancouver: Fairleigh 

Dickinson University Press, 2013. 

Burstyn, Joan N. 1990. “Mary Teresa Norton”. Past and Promise, Lives of New Jersey Women. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/54795063 

Norton, Mary Teresa. 1914. Mary T. Norton papers. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/28409736 

Norton, Mary Teresa. 1945. Questions and answers about permanent Fair Employment Practice Commission: speech of Hon. Mary T. Norton of New Jersey in the House of Representatives, Friday, April 27, 1945. Washington: Govt. Print Off. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/77136809 


Questions to Explore

What were some of Norton’s success’s in fighting for the rights of women?

What actions did Norton take as the Twelfth Congressional District of New Jersey in the House of Representatives?

How was Norton’s election to congress different compared to other women elected in congress?

Additional Resources

Rees, Maureen. Mary T. Norton : Representative from New Jersey 1924-1950., 1986.

Geer Emily A. 1952. “A Study of the Activities of Women in Congress with Special Reference to the Congressional Careers of Margaret Chase Smith Mary T. Norton and Edith Nourse Rogers.” Dissertation. Bowling Green State University. .https://www.worldcat.org/title/30369568