The D.C. Federation of Democratic Women announced that a scholarship and a fundraising dinner have been started in the name of the District of Columbia’s member of the U.S. Congress. “We have launched a scholarship in the name of Eleanor Holmes Norton in the fields of law, public policy and political science,” Hazel Thomas, the immediate past president of the federation, said at a reception held in Norton’s honor at the offices of the Reed Smith law firm in Northwest D.C. Thomas said the scholarship and the 2018 Eleanor Holmes Norton Legacy Luncheon are designed to have Black women in the political business achieve political power.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Thomas said, referring to President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled congress.
The federation was established in 1972 to help women become more politically involved in the District and to help them to run for political office as Democrats. It is a member of the National Federation of Democratic Women and several of its members and female politicians, such as Norton, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and then D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, have been honored by the national body for their efforts in the District.
Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and D.C. Council members Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) were among the 50 guests that attended on Sept. 20. Other notables included former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt (D), former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, Julianna Malveaux, former president of Bennett College for Women and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III.
Norton, a District native who graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1955, has served as the city’s sole representative to the Congress since 1991. Before her political career, she gained a solid reputation as a scholar and activist on African American and female rights, with her service as the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission by Mayor John Lindsay in 1970 and in 1977 President Carter appointed her as the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Norton was a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center from 1981 until she became a member of Congress. While in Congress, she has distinguished herself as a fighter for the District and in the areas of constitutional and civil rights law.
“Since I became mayor, the congresswoman and I have been together a lot,” Bowser said. “She takes calls from her constituents on every issue.”
Bowser said “a lot has changed since November 8” the day Trump was elected president, but said “not in D.C.” She thanked Norton for her advocacy of women serving in public office.
While Norton and Bowser possess two of the top four political offices – the others being D.C. Council Chairman and D.C. Attorney General – the council has four women out of 13 members and Bonds is the only Black woman.
Scott Bolden is a partner at Reed Smith and a former chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Bolden presented an undisclosed sum of money to the scholarship fund and told the AFRO that the scholarship “will build young minds.”
“To name a scholarship in my honor has a lot of personal meaning for me,” the delegate said. She said that as a Black girl growing up in the District in the 1940s and 50s, there were two primary barriers to full citizenship. “Washington, D.C. was a segregated city and it was a city with no democracy,” she said. “An un-elected Congress ran this city and they still try to do that but I stop them.”