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Eleanor Holmes Norton

Assumed office 
January 3, 1991
Preceded by Walter E. Fauntroy

In office
Preceded by Lowell W. Perry
Succeeded by Clarence Thomas

Born June 13, 1937 (1937-06-13) (age 72)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Edward Norton (m. 1965, div. 1993)
Residence Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Antioch College
Yale University
Yale Law School
Occupation Attorney
Religion Episcopalian

Eleanor Holmes Norton (born June 13, 1937) is a Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia. In her position she is able to serve on and vote with committees, as well as speak from the House floor. However, she is not permitted to vote on final passage of any legislation because she is not a full member of Congress.


Early life

Eleanor Holmes was born in Washington, D.C. to Coleman Holmes, a civil servant, and Vela Holmes née Lynch, a schoolteacher. She attended Antioch College (B.A. 1960), Yale University (M.A. 1963) and Yale Law School (L.L.B 1964).[1]

While in college and graduate school, Norton was active in the civil rights movement and an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By the time Norton graduated from Antioch, she had already been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Ohio. While in law school, she traveled to Mississippi for the Mississippi Freedom Summer and worked with civil rights stalwarts like Medgar Evers. Norton's first encounter with a recently released, but physically beaten Fannie Lou Hamer forced Norton to bear witness to the intensity of violence and Jim Crow repression in the South.[2] Her time with SNCC inspired her lifelong commitment to social activism and her budding sense of feminism. In the early 1970s, Eleanor Holmes Norton was a signer of the Black Woman’s Manifesto, a classic document of the Black feminist movement.

Eleanor Holmes Norton as chair of the EEOC

Upon graduation from law school, she became a law clerk to Federal District Court Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. At the end of her clerkship, she later served as an assistant legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, adjunct assistant professor at New York University Law School, and executive assistant to the Mayor of New York. In the early 1970s, Mayor John Lindsay appointed her as the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission and she held the first hearings in the country on discrimination against women. Prominent feminists from throughout the country came to New York City to testify, while Norton used the platform as a means of raising public awareness about the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to women and sex discrimination.[2]

Appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first female Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Norton 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.[3]

She has also served as a senior fellow of the Urban Institute and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Norton was one of the founders of the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical to focus exclusively on women's rights.

Delegate to Congress

Jack Kemp, Adrian Fenty, and Norton at DC Vote rally on Capitol Hill

Norton was elected in 1990 as a Democratic delegate to the House of Representatives, defeating city council member Betty Ann Kane in the primary despite the last-minute revelation that Norton had failed to file D.C. income tax returns for several years and owed thousands of dollars.[4][5] Her campaign manager was Donna Brazile.[5] The delegate position was open because Del. Walter Fauntroy was running for mayor rather than seeking reelection.[6] Norton took office on January 3, 1991, and has been reelected every two years since.[6] Norton is up for reelection in November 2010.

Delegates to Congress are entitled to sit in the House of Representatives and vote in committee (including the Committee of the Whole), but are not allowed to take part in legislative floor votes.[7] The District shares this limited form of congressional representation with Puerto Rico and four other U.S. territories: Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Legislation strongly supported by Norton that would grant the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, was passed by the United States Senate on February 26, 2009. If the House, in which she has sponsored the bill, passes it as well and President Barack Obama signs it, the elected representative from the District would be entitled to full voting rights in the 112th Congress. However, the act would not grant Norton the right to vote in the 111th and current Congress, as she would remain in her elected office of delegate for the duration of her two-year term.[8] However, Norton could run for election to the office of representative in 2010, and if she were elected and took office as a member of the 112th Congress, she would be entitled to full voting rights in the House of Representatives thereafter.

She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Committee assignments


On July 27, 2006, Norton appeared on the "Better Know a District" segment of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, in which she spiritedly defended the District of Columbia's claim to being a part of the United States.[9] Norton also appeared on the joint Colbert Report/Daily Show "Midterm Midtacular" special on November 7, 2006.[10] A further interview with Stephen Colbert was conducted on March 22, 2007,[11] and April 24, 2007 on the subject of representation in the District of Columbia.[12] On February 12, 2008, Colbert and Norton discussed her status as a superdelegate as well as her support of Barack Obama for President.[13] She appeared once again on February 11, 2009 to discuss D.C. representation and promised Colbert that she would make him an honorary citizen of Washington, D.C., and give him a key to the city, if D.C. citizens were given representation. Colbert in turn gave Norton a "TV promise" that he would be there should that happen.[14]

Colbert and Norton maintain a satirical rivalry, with their interviews usually involving Colbert belittling Norton's fight for fair representation of D.C. and, in retaliation, Norton famously questioning Colbert's nationality due to the pronunciation of his surname. Once, Colbert said he thought Norton was undressing him with her eyes.

Norton is a regular panelist on the PBS women's news program To the Contrary.

On June 27, 2008, Norton appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller,[15] which she strongly opposed.


  1. ^ Biography of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
  2. ^ a b Voices of the Civil Rights Movement
  3. ^ Sexual Harassment - Further Readings
  4. ^ Abramowitz, Michael (1990-09-12). "D.C. Delegate; Norton Overcomes Last-Minute Crisis to Win". The Washington Post: p. A21. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  5. ^ a b Melton, R.H.; Abramowitz, Michael (1990-09-25). "Second D.C. Candidate Didn't Pay Taxes; Shadow Seat Hopeful Says Failure to File Is a Protest for Statehood". The Washington Post: p. A01. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  6. ^ a b District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. "Historical Elected Officials: Delegate to the US House of Representatives". Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  7. ^ DC Vote - The Local Delegation: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
  8. ^ "Text of S.160 as Introduced in Senate District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009". OpenCongress. 
  9. ^ The Colbert Report - 07/27/2006 - Better Know a District - District of Columbia - Eleanor Holmes Norton
  10. ^ The Colbert Report: Indecision 2006 - Midterm Midtactular - 11/07/2006 - Robert Wexler and Eleanor Holmes Norton
  11. ^ The Colbert Report - 03/22/2007 - Eleanor Holmes Norton
  12. ^ The Colbert Report - 04/24/2007 - Eleanor Holmes Norton
  13. ^ The Colbert Report - 02/12/2008 - Eleanor Holmes Norton
  14. ^ The Colbert Report - 02/11/2009 - DC Voting Rights Act - Eleanor Holmes Norton
  15. ^ Supreme Court Strikes Down DC Handgun Ban

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Walter E. Fauntroy
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives
from the District of Columbia

January 3, 1991 – present


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Eleanor Holmes Norton (born June 13, 1937) is a member of the United States House of Representatives but is not a full voting member. She is a Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia, a position which carries more limited voting powers compared to full House members.


  • Unidentified Congressman: Will the gentleman yield?
    Norton: I will not yield, sir! The District of Columbia has spent two hundred and six years yielding!

External links

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