From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Remarks on Portrait Unveiling of Former Congresswoman Mary T. Norton

March 18, 2004

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez and other Members today unveiled a portrait of former Congresswoman Mary T. Norton of New Jersey. Norton was the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first woman to chair a major committee in Congress. The portrait will hang in the offices of the Democratic Leader:

Portrait Unveiling of Former Congresswoman Mary T. Norton
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), hosted a reception to unveil the portrait of Mary Norton, the first Democratic woman elected to Congress.

"Two weeks ago, it was my privilege to host a reception for Mary McGrory of the Washington Post, a peerless innovator and an inspiration to so many women. In her early days with the Washington Star newspaper, Mary wrote about the retirement of a woman who had inspired her – the woman we are honoring today -- the late Congresswoman Mary Norton of New Jersey.

"In a column more than 50 years ago entitled 'They’ll Miss the Back of Mary’s Hand,' Mary McGrory described Mary Norton as a 'caustic humanitarian.' She wrote, 'The ability of the gentlewoman from New Jersey to take care of herself in the hurly-burly of the House has become a legend,' yet her 'quickness to give the back of her hand to fractious lawmakers seems to have inspired no deep resentment on their part.'

These were the two defining traits of Mary Norton – a strong and able leader, with a kind and caring heart. Her nicknames tell the same story. She was known as both 'fighting Mary' and 'Aunt Mary.'

"Mary Norton was the first woman ever elected to Congress as a Democrat. She was the first woman to head a standing Committee of the House -- the District of Columbia Committee, where she earned another nickname, 'the Lady Mayor of Washington.' She was the first person in modern times to chair three major committees.

"We remember Mary Norton not only for making history, but also for making progress. A solid supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, her finest hour may have been passage of the controversial Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 while Chair of the House Labor Committee. She was instrumental in raising the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents per hour. At the time of Mary Norton’s retirement in 1950, one of her colleagues said, 'She possesses all the grace and beauty and charm of a woman with all the firmness and courage of a great legislator.'

"As Mary McGrory wrote, 'For strength and warmth, the House is not likely to see her like soon again.'

"March is Women’s History Month, and it is an appropriate time to celebrate the lives of women such as Mary Norton and Mary McGrory and to recommit ourselves to finding and inspiring the next generation of women leaders. It is with pride and hope that we hang this portrait of Mary Norton today to celebrate the good work in Congress that she described as a 'soul-satisfying experience.'

"To speak more about this portrait of the first Democratic Congresswoman, it is my pleasure to introduce the current Dean of the Democratic Congresswomen, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio. Marcy rescued this portrait from languishing in a closet in a House Annex building, and she has fought to highlight this great role model for women."




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