Women of Ward 6: Eleanor Holmes Norton


October’s Woman of Ward 6 is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is now in her 15th term as the US Representative for the District of Columbia. She is a national figure, a civil rights and feminist leader, a tenured professor of law and a board member at three Fortune 500 companies. She has been named as one of the 100 most important American women in one survey, and one of the most powerful women in Washington in another.

Norton has been a tireless advocate for DC statehood, as well as working to preserve and create jobs for DC residents. “After 219 years of Congress denying DC residents congressional voting rights and full local self-government,” she recently said, “we are on the cusp of another historic first for DC statehood in a year of historic firsts for DC statehood. Americans living in all 50 states recognize that this is a fight for fairness and equal representation.”

Norton is a third-generation Washingtonian. While a student at Dunbar High School, she was elected junior class president and was a member of the National Honor Society. She earned her B.A. from Antioch College, her M.A. from Yale and her L.L.B. from Yale Law School.

While she was in college and graduate school, she was active in the civil rights movement and an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By the time she graduated from Antioch, she had been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins in Washington, Maryland and Ohio. While she was in law school, she traveled to Mississippi for the Mississippi Freedom Summer and worked with civil rights stalwarts such as Medgar Evers.

Before she was elected to Congress in 1990, President Jimmy Carter appointed her in 1977 to serve as the first woman to chair the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She released the EEOC’s first set of regulations outlining what constituted sexual harassment and declaring that sexual harassment was indeed a form of sexual discrimination that violated federal civil rights laws.

She taught full-time before being elected to Congress and is a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, teaching an upper-class seminar there every year.

She was elected as a delegate to the US House in 1990, taking office on Jan. 3, 1991, and has been reelected every two years since. Delegates to Congress are entitled to vote in committee and to offer amendments in the Committee of the Whole, but are not allowed to take part in legislative floor votes.

She chairs the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and serves on the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

She has advanced economic development to DC. Successes include bringing the US Department of Homeland Security headquarters – currently the largest federal construction project in the country – to the District, as well as the relocation of 6,000 jobs to the Washington Navy Yard. She helped ensure that the new headquarters for the US Department of Transportation would be sited in Southeast, and worked to see construction of new headquarters for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with an additional Metro station at New York Avenue.

The Women of Ward 6 Initiative is a non-partisan recognition of Ward 6’s women. In partnership with the National Woman’s Party, Capitol Hill Restoration Society and the Hill Rag, the initiative will culminate this year, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Marci Hilt is a retired communications coordinator and press secretary for the US Department of Agriculture and the Office of the US Trade Representative. She writes and edits EMMCA MATTERS and is treasurer of the Ward 6 Democrats.