Remarks on Portrait Unveiling of Former Congresswoman Mary T. Norton
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:
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.
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.
column more than 50 years ago entitled 'Theyll Miss the Back
of Marys 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
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.
Mary Norton not only for making history, but also for making progress.
A solid supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelts
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 Nortons
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.'
McGrory wrote, 'For strength and warmth, the House is not likely
to see her like soon again.'
is Womens 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.'
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."