Mary Norton and the Women of the 80th Congress, 1947-1949 (pictured, left to right, Helen G. Douglas [D-CA], Margaret C. Smith [R-ME], Edith N. Rogers [R-MA], Mary Norton [D-NJ], Frances Bolton [R-OH], Georgia Lusk [D-NM]. Not pictured, Katharine St. George [R-NY].)
Image courtesy of the Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ
Mary T. 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 of 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, Norton was elected to the Hudson county Board of Freeholders as its first Democratic woman freeholder. Even more impressively, Norton was chosen in 1924 to represent 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 being preceded by her husband and 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.