Today, as Congress considers a bill to give citizens of the nation's capital a voting member of the House of Representatives, we profile one of the strongest champions for voting rights in Washington, D.C. - Eleanor Holmes Norton.
She is now a non-voting Congressional delegate for Washington, D.C. and has long history of fighting for civil rights and equal representation for her constituency.
Eleanor Holmes Norton is a third generation Washingtonian who says she was shaped by her hometown.
"My great grandfather, Richard Holmes, was a runaway slave. That's how that part of the family got here."
Born in 1937, Norton grew up in a racially segregated Washington where black and white children did not attend the same schools.
"My parents and my city raised young people like me to regard people who would segregate them as themselves flawed. We were taught to love all people, but to pity those whose ignorance led them to believe in segregation."
Norton went on to Antioch College and Yale Law School. As a young lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1960s, Norton argued for equal rights under the United States Constitution.
Her work with the ACLU attracted the attention of the mayor of New York, who hired her to chair the city's Commission on Human Rights. In 1977 the Carter Administration brought Norton back to Washington to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Her switch to politics came in 1990 when she was elected to represent Washington, the District of Columbia, in the United States Congress.
"I didn't grow up wanting to be a member of Congress. There was no member of Congress representing this city. This place was ruled like an actual colony by three commissioners appointed by the president of the United States. It is one of the most
shameful chapters in American history."
In her role as Washington, D.C.'s elected delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, Norton can introduce laws, serve on house committees, even chair one, but she cannot cast a vote for passage of any law.
"The people that I represent and their ancestors still do not have equal rights with other Americans."
Eleanor Holmes Norton is a woman of many passions. With the Democrats holding a majority of seats in Congress since last November's elections, she has assumed the chairmanship of a congressional subcommittee, which, among other things, oversees the upkeep of federal buildings.
"It costs money in order to get the energy payback and to get the return on your dollars."
After the session, Norton drove herself to a community center for an HIV/AIDS conference.
"Fortunately we have a system in the District for people who do not have health insurance."
Norton says making laws in a democracy depends a lot on compromise, and that means finding common ground with the loyal opposition.
"You have got to get together in order to move the country forward. Sometimes it's gridlock. Sometimes [it] doesn't move as quickly as we would want, but I tell you, it makes you understand that you are in a great democracy when it doesn't collapse
every time there is a disagreement.
Eleanor Holmes Norton is in her ninth two-year term as the Congresswoman from Washington, the District of Columbia.