MC 1201

Inventory to the Mary T. Norton Papers

By Donna R. Schleifer and David Kuzma

January 2009

Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries

Finding aid encoded in EAD, version 2002 by Tara Maharjan, October 2016
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.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Norton, Mary Teresa, 1875-1959.
Title: Mary T. Norton Papers
Dates: 1914-1960
Quantity: about 5 cubic feet (10 boxes, 10 volumes, 1 oversize roll)
Abstract: Biographical material, correspondence, letters of condolence, speeches and statements, writings (including drafts of an unpublished memoir "Madame Congressman"), a general subject file, photographs, certificates, scrapbooks and press clippings.
Collection No.: MC 1201
Language: English
Repository: Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives
Acknowledgment: Additional contributions to the finding aid were made by Albert C. King and John Mulez.

Biographical Note

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.

Return to the Top

Chronology of Events

Date Event
1875 (March 7) Mary Teresa Hopkins is born in Jersey City, N.J., daughter of Thomas Hopkins and Marie Shea.
1892 Graduates from Jersey City High School, N.J.
1896 Graduates from Packard Business School, New York City.
1909 Marries Robert Francis Norton, cooperage firm executive.
1912 Helps establish Queen's Daughters' Day Nursery.
1916 Becomes President of Day Nurseries Association of New Jersey.
1920 At persuasion of Frank Hague, Mayor of Jersey City, serves as Hudson County representative on Democratic State Committee.
1921 Elected vice-chairman of Democratic State Committee.
1924 With endorsement of Frank Hague, is elected Congresswoman for the 12th (later 13th) district of New Jersey.
1926 Opposes Gillett bill to foster dissemination of birth control literature.
1926-1928 Member of Veteran Affairs Committee; obtains funds for first veteran's hospital in New Jersey.
1932 Head of House Committee on District of Columbia (until 1937). Head of New Jersey Democratic Committee (until 1935).
1934 Robert Francis Norton dies.
1937 Succeeds to chair of House Labor Committee following the death of William P. Connery. Serves until 1946.
1938 Steers Franklin D. Roosevelt's Wages and Hours Bill through House. Leads floor fight for Fair Labor Standards Act.
1944 Becomes member of Democratic National Committee.
1944-1951 Introduces legislation (unsuccessfully) to establish permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission to combat racial discrimination.
1945 Appointed advisor and alternative delegate to International Labor Organization Conference in Paris.
1946 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.
1947 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.
1948 Chairs Credentials Committee of Democratic National Convention.
1949 Becomes Head of House Administration Committee.
1950 Granted honorary degree of LL.D. from St. Bonaventure College.
1951-1953 Head of Woman's Advisory Committee of Defense Manpower under Secretary of Labor.
1951-1953 Completes memoirs, "Madam Congressman" (unpublished).
1959 (August 2) Dies in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Return to the Top

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.

Return to the Top

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Mary T. Norton Papers. MC 1201. Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Return to the Top


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

Return to the Top

Detailed Description of the Papers/Container List

This section provides descriptions of the materials found within each series. Each series description is followed by a container list, which gives the titles of the "containers" (for example, folders, volumes, or cassettes) and their locations in the numbered boxes that comprise the collection. The availability of any digital items from a container is indicated with a hyperlink.

Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
Summary: Biographical material including magazine articles on Mary Norton, typescript tributes, voting record, legislative record, newspaper excerpts, press releases, obituary (New York Times), and Congressional Record tributes.
Box Folder
1 1 Undated
2 1926-1932
3 1940-1945
4 1946-1949
5 1950
6 1951-1959
Arrangement: Bulk arranged chronologically by year.
Summary: Incoming and outgoing correspondence. The bulk of the letters consists of congratulations on election, appointments, honors, and responses to these. Other correspondence relates to public projects Mary Norton was involved in, e.g. the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital extension, the Lanham Child Care bill, Federal Works projects as well as the publication of her memoirs. Included are telegrams, birthday cards, get well cards and invitations. Also included are typed letters signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt (1928-1945), Eleanor Roosevelt (1940-1959), and Harry Truman (1946-1952). The letters from the Roosevelts and Truman are brief, mainly acknowledgements of congratulations and messages of support.
Box Folder
1 7 1920-1930
8 1931-1936
9 1937
10 1938
11 1939
12 1940
13 1941
14 1942
15 1943
16 1944
17 1945
18 1946
Box Folder
2 1 January-May 15, 1947
2 May 16-December 1947
3 January-June 1948
4 July-December 1948
5 1949
6 January-February 1950
7 March 1-6, 1950
8 March 7, 1950
9 March 8, 1950
10 March 9-10, 1950
11 March 11-31, 1950
12 April 1950
13 May-July 1950
14 August-December 1950
Box Folder
3 1 January-June 1951
2 July-December 1951
3 January-June 1952
4 July-December 1952
5 1953
6 1954
7 1955
8 1956
9 1957
10 1958
11 1959
12 Undated
13 Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928-1938
14 Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940-1945
15 Eleanor Roosevelt, 1940-1954
16 Eleanor Roosevelt, 1955-March 1957
17 Eleanor Roosevelt, April 1957-1959
Box Folder
4 1 Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948
2 Harry S. Truman, 1949-1950
3 Harry S. Truman, 1951-1952
4 Birthday Cards, undated
5 Get Well Cards, undated
6 Get Well and Holiday Cards, undated
Arrangement: Unarranged.
Summary: Included are letters, sympathy cards, telegrams, certificates for mass.
Box Folder
4 7-9 1959
10 1959-1960
11 Sympathy Cards, 1959
12 Sympathy Cards with Mass Offerings, 1959
13 Mass Certificates, 1959
Box Folder
5 1 Mass Certificates, 1959
Arrangement: Grouped by type and thereunder arranged chronologically; many undated.
Summary: Speeches and public statements made in the House and at clubs, conferences, etc.; also includes press releases and radio broadcasts. Speeches pertain to several subjects, including the following:
·Labor: including "Labor Standards Legislation: A Bulwark for Democracy," address before the National Consumers League, December 8, 1939; a defense of the Labor Committee in the House (undated); a speech urging passage of the Fair Labor Standards Bill (undated); a speech on the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Bill; a speech in the House on the Wages and Hours Bill (October 19, 1938; also October 23, 1938); amendments to the National Labor Relations Act (in the House June 6, 1940); address before the New Jersey CIO convention (December 6, 1947); radio addresses on the Wages and Hours Bill (October 3, 1937)
·Defense: including "The Defense of America," an address at the regional conference of eleven western states in Los Angeles (September 13, 1943); remarks on Compulsory Military Service (in the House, September 7, 1940); speech supporting the extension of military service (August 12, 1941) and conscription (1940)
·Women: including and address on the 20th Anniversary of suffrage (undated); "Women's Place in Government" (undated); an addresses on "defense manpower" (October 9, 1952, also December 4, 1951); "Women in Government" (May 5, 1932); D.C. suffrage (speech, 1943); radio speech (April 28, 1938).
·Reports include the report to accompany Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938).
Included in the papers are typescript speeches, printed speeches, speeches and statements published in the Congressional Record, press releases, reports, bills.
Box Folder
5 2 1923-1938
3 1939-1940
4 1941-1944
5 1945-1951
6 1952-1958
7 Undated
8 Undated
9 Congressional, 1926-1944
10 Congressional, 1945-1946
11 Congressional, 1947
12 Congressional, 1948-1950
13 Congressional, undated
14 Congressional, undated
15 Congressional, undated
16 Congressional Bills and Committee Reports, 1938-1943
17 Testimony, 1943 and undated
Box Folder
6 1 Radio Broadcasts and Press Releases, 1932-1938
2 Radio Broadcasts and Press Releases, 1940-1944
3 Radio Broadcasts and Press Releases, 1947-1949
4 Radio Broadcasts and Press Releases, undated
WRITINGS, 1932-1949, 1952-1960
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
Summary: Included are published articles, miscellaneous typescripts, and several drafts of Mary Norton's unpublished autobiography, including a detailed (although unidentified) editorial critique. The articles pertain to various subjects, including:
·Prohibition: "Prohibition," The Jeffersonian, (undated)
· Women: including "Thirty Years Later," Democratic Digest, August/September 1949); "Women in Industry" (typescript), published in The Spiritual Woman, (Marian Sheehan, ed.), 1955
· Labor: Including "Full Employment" (Democratic Digest, July 1945); "Labor Must Fight the Lobbies," (North American Labor, April 1949)
Box Folder
6 5 1932-1945
6 1946-1949
7 Undated
8 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 1 (photocopy for patron use)
9 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 2 (photocopy for patron use)
10 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 3 (photocopy for patron use)
11 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 4 (photocopy for patron use)
12 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 5 (photocopy for patron use)
13 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 6 (photocopy for patron use)
14 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 7 (photocopy for patron use)
15 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 8 (photocopy for patron use)
16 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 9 (photocopy for patron use)
17 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 10 (photocopy for patron use)
18 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 11 (photocopy for patron use)
19 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 12 (photocopy for patron use)
20 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 13 (photocopy for patron use)
21 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 1 (original)
22 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 2 (original)
23 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 3 (original)
24 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 4 (original)
25 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 5 (original)
Box Folder
7 1 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 6 (original)
2 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 7 (original)
3 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 8 (original)
4 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 9 (original)
5 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 10 (original)
6 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 11 (original)
7 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 12 (original)
8 Autobiography / Copy I: Chapter 13 (original)
9 Autobiography / Copy II: Critique, 1952-1960
10 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 1
11 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 2
12 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 3
13 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 4
14 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 5
15 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 6
16 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 7
17 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 8
18 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 9
19 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 10
20 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 11
21 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 12
22 Autobiography / Copy II: Chapter 13
23-28 Autobiography / Draft Pages
Box Folder
8 1-3 Autobiography / Draft Pages
GENERAL FILE, 1914-1953
Arrangement: Arranged alphabetically by subject heading.
Summary: Documents pertaining to organizations, committees, activities in the House, miscellaneous memorabilia and personal effects. Documents pertain to several subjects, including New Jersey hospital projects and child care projects, the Fair Labor Committee, the Women's Advisory Committee on Defense Manpower.
Included are minutes, financial documents, records, and miscellaneous material including a memo on and a biography of Frank Hague, plus memorabilia relating to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Box Folder
8 4 Child Care Programs for Working Mothers, 1943, 1945 and undated
5 Congressional Stationery
6 Congressional Record, 1941 and 1949-1950
7 Congressional Record, 1950 and 1955
8 Democratic Women of New Jersey, 1923-1924 and undated
9 Fair Labor and Other Acts, 1925-1944 and undated
10 Hudson County Maternity Hospital, 1924?-1925
11 International Labor Conference, 1945-1948
12 Memo on Frank Hague, 1943
13 National Equal Pay Conference, 1952
14 Personal Finances: Bank Statement and Canceled Checks, 1955
15 Personal Memorabilia, 1931-1952 and undated
16 Political Miscellany, 1930?-1944 and undated
17 Press Releases, 1938, 1948, 1958 and undated
18 Public Health Projects, 1929-1938 and undated
Box Folder
9 1 Queen’s Daughters Reports, 1914-1923
2 Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1946
3 U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, 1952
4 U.S. Department of Labor. Women's Advisory Committee on Defense Manpower, 1951-1953
5 U.S. Department of Labor. "Manpower for Defense" Pamphlet, 1953
6 Miscellaneous Catholic Literature, 1931-1951
PHOTOGRAPHS, 1924-1956 and undated
Arrangement: Bulk divided between group pictures and personal portraits.
Summary: Photographs include private life and public occasions.
Black-and-white positive prints. Mostly undated.
Box Folder
9 7 Group Pictures (identified), 1932-1944
8 Group Pictures (identified), 1947-1956
9 Group Pictures (identified), undated
10 Group Pictures (unidentified), 1930-1940
11-12 Group Pictures (unidentified), undated
13 Group Pictures (inscribed), undated
14 Ladies Day at Roosevelt Stadium, undated
15 Personal and Family Pictures, undated
16 Portraits of Mary Norton, 1924-1951
17 Portraits of Mary Norton, undated
Arrangement: Unarranged.
Summary: Nomination and election certificates, 1926-1944; honorary degrees, 1930 and 1950.
1 Election Certificates, 1926-1944
Box Folder
9 18 Honorary Degrees, 1930 and 1950
SCRAPBOOKS, 1922-1951
Arrangement: Volumes arranged numerically; most contents arranged chronologically.
Summary: 10 numbered scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings of Mary Norton's career.
1 1922-1934
2 1930-1935
3 1931-1942
4 1931-1949
5 1932-1946
6 1935-1938
7 1937-1938
8 1938-1942
9 1947-1949
10 1950-1951
Arrangement: Grouped by subject.
Summary: Numerous clippings covering various parts of Mary Norton's career.
Box Folder
10 1 Congressional Clippings, Editorials, etc.
2 Democratic Digest, June/July 1950
3 Important Newspaper Articles
4 Speeches and Statements: Women
5 Miscellaneous Subjects and Concerning Norton's Death
6-9 Miscellaneous Subjects