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Identifier: MC 1201

Mary T. Norton Papers


  • Majority of material found within 1914-1960

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Mary T. Norton, received in 1962, 1966 and 1968, date from 1914-1960. The greater part of the papers occupies the period from 1930-1950 when she had established herself as a Congresswoman.

Included in the papers are incoming and outgoing correspondence, including greeting cards and invitations, speeches, statements and press releases, writings (published and typescript, including typescript drafts of her unpublished autobiography), photographs, certificates of election, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and letters of condolence on her death. Also included in the papers are various types of biographical material, including magazine articles and her legislative and voting records, and various documents relating to organizations of which she was a member.

The bulk of the papers relates to Mary Norton's career as a Congresswoman (1925-1950). Much of the correspondence is of a formal, congratulatory nature, including that of the letters from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Speeches and public statements made in Congress and elsewhere concentrate on the issues of labor, women's role and status, and child care. Her writings, published and unpublished, deal with some of the same issues. The 10 numbered scrapbooks record her career in newspaper clippings.


5 Cubic Feet (10 boxes, 10 volumes, 1 oversize roll)

Language of Materials



Biographical material, correspondence, letters of condolence, speeches and statements, writings (including drafts of an unpublished memoir "Madame Congressman"), a general subject file, photographs, certificates, scrapbooks and press clippings.

<emph render="bold">Biographical Note</emph>

Mary Teresa Norton, United States Congresswomen (1925-1951) was born in Jersey City, N.J. on March 7, 1875 and died in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 2, 1959. The daughter of Thomas Hopkins and Maria Shea, she was graduated from Jersey City High School in 1892. From then until 1896 she attended Packard Business College in New York City. After graduating from there, she worked as a stenographer and secretary until 1909 when she married Robert Francis Norton, executive in a cooperage firm. Her only son, born 1910, died in infancy.

Her baby's death affected her greatly. Aware she could have no more children, she withdrew from the world for two years. Eventually she re-emerged and turned to child care work. In 1912, she helped found the Queen's Daughters' Day Nursery. In 1916, she became president of the Day Nurseries Association of Jersey City, a non-sectarian organization providing day care for the children of working mothers.

During her activities on their behalf, she met Frank Hague, Mayor of Jersey City. Hague, aware of the opportunities offered the Democrats by the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, recognized in Mary Norton a potential ally and candidate. At his encouragement she served as the Hudson County representative on the Democratic State Committee. Elected vice-chairman in 1921, she became chairman from 1932-1935, and vice-chairman again from 1935-1943. In 1923, with Hague's support, she was elected first woman member of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders. She convinced the board of the need for a maternity hospital in Jersey City to be erected at county expense. Hague gave her his backing, and the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital became one of the best of its kind in the country.

In 1924, Mary Norton resigned from the board and, with Hague's endorsement, was elected to the House of Representatives from the 12th (later the 13th) Congressional District of New Jersey. She was the first woman elected to Congress as a Democrat without being preceded by her husband, and the first from an eastern state.

Mary Norton was the first member of Congress to introduce a bill to repeal the 18th amendment. Appointed a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee (1926-1928), she obtained funds for the first veterans' hospital in New Jersey. From 1932-1937 she chaired the District of Columbia Committee, the first woman to head a congressional committee, and became known as the "Mayor of Washington."

Mary Norton was also elected to a number of important Democratic party positions. In 1932, she became head of the New Jersey Democratic Committee, retaining the position until 1935, and holding it again from 1940-1944, the first women of either party to be elected head of a state party organization. In 1944, she became a member of the Democratic National Committee; in 1948 she chaired the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention.

Having succeeded to the chair of the House Labor Committee in 1937, on the unexpected death of William P. Connery, she headed the committee for 10 years, steering Roosevelt's Wages and Hours Bill through the House in 1938, and leading the floor fight for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. She resigned from the Committee in 1946 when Republicans gained a majority in the 1946 election, in protest against the new chairman, Fred W. Hartley of New Jersey. Appointed instead to the Administration Committee, she became its head in 1949 when the Democrats regained control of the House.

A supporter of working women, Mary Norton sought federal funds during World War II for day care centers, and argued for their continued support after the war under the Lanham Act. In 1944, aware of the problems women would have after the end of the war, she submitted a bill providing the wage determination under the War Disputes Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other laws would apply to workers regardless of sex. However, like other women during the 1930s and 1940s, she upheld protective legislation and opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. As a Catholic, she opposed the Gillett bill (1925) which would have fostered the dissemination of birth-control information.

The recipient of three honorary degrees, she also received the Woman of Achievement Award from the Women's National Press Club (1946) and the Siena Medal from Theta Phi Alpha as the outstanding Catholic woman of the year in 1947.

Biographical / Historical

Chronology of Events

1875 (March 7)
Mary Teresa Hopkins is born in Jersey City, N.J., daughter of Thomas Hopkins and Marie Shea.
Graduates from Jersey City High School, N.J.
Graduates from Packard Business School, New York City.
Marries Robert Francis Norton, cooperage firm executive.
Helps establish Queen's Daughters' Day Nursery.
Becomes President of Day Nurseries Association of New Jersey.
At persuasion of Frank Hague, Mayor of Jersey City, serves as Hudson County representative on Democratic State Committee.
Elected vice-chairman of Democratic State Committee.
With endorsement of Frank Hague, is elected Congresswoman for the 12th (later 13th) district of New Jersey.
Opposes Gillett bill to foster dissemination of birth control literature.
Member of Veteran Affairs Committee; obtains funds for first veteran's hospital in New Jersey.
Head of House Committee on District of Columbia (until 1937). Head of New Jersey Democratic Committee (until 1935).
Robert Francis Norton dies.
Succeeds to chair of House Labor Committee following the death of William P. Connery. Serves until 1946.
Steers Franklin D. Roosevelt's Wages and Hours Bill through House. Leads floor fight for Fair Labor Standards Act.
Becomes member of Democratic National Committee.
Introduces legislation (unsuccessfully) to establish permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission to combat racial discrimination.
Appointed advisor and alternative delegate to International Labor Organization Conference in Paris.
Resigns from Labor Committee in protest against new chairman, Fred A. Hartley (R-N.J.). Receives Woman of Achievement Award from Women's National Press Club.
Appointed to House Administration Committee. Helps lead unsuccessful fight against Taft-Hartley Act. Awarded Siena Medal by Theta Phi Alpha as outstanding Catholic Woman of the year.
Chairs Credentials Committee of Democratic National Convention.
Becomes Head of House Administration Committee.
Granted honorary degree of LL.D. from St. Bonaventure College.
Head of Woman's Advisory Committee of Defense Manpower under Secretary of Labor.
Completes memoirs, "Madam Congressman" (unpublished).
1959 (August 2)
Dies in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Rees, Maureen, "Mary Norton: 'A Grand Girl.'" Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, XLVII (1985: 59-75).


Additional contributions to the finding aid were made by Albert C. King and John Mulez.

Inventory to the Mary T. Norton Papers MC 1201
Edited Full Draft
Donna R. Schleifer and David Kuzma
January 2009
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.