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Eleanor Holmes Norton

Photo of Chairwoman Norton

Seventh Chair of the EEOC, May 27, 1977 - February 21, 1981

Eleanor Holmes Norton was the first woman appointed Chairman of the Commission. President Jimmy Carter nominated her on May 16, 1977. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 27, sworn-in on June 6, and served as Chair of the EEOC until February 21, 1981.

Ms. Norton came to head the Commission immediately after serving in a similar leadership role for seven years as chairman of the New York City Commission on Civil Rights. Her effectiveness in directing the equal employment functions of the city agency was key to her being cited in 1974 by Time Magazine as one of the top 200 American leaders under 45.

Before joining the New York Commission, Ms. Norton was a law clerk for Federal District Court Judge H. Leon Higginbotham and practiced law as assistant legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is a graduate of Antioch College, received her M.A. degree from Yale Graduate School and her law degree from Yale Law School.

As chairwoman of the EEOC, Ms. Norton instituted several new systems aimed at reducing the agency's backlog of older cases, streamlining procedures for processing new cases and effectively processing Commission initiated charges against employers who show patterns of discrimination against minorities and women.

Ms. Norton was an early advocate of parallel actions on behalf of equal rights for minorities and women. Her work in this regard is rooted in the civil rights and sit-in movements in the South, including associations with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and campaigns in the North for equal rights. She co-authored several books, including Sex Discrimination and the Law: Causes and Remedies, currently in use in law schools and colleges.

Ms. Norton is now in her fifth term in Congress, representing Washington, D.C.