Peterson, Esther Eggertsen, 1906-1997

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Esther Peterson was born Esther Eggertsen in Provo, Utah, on December 9, 1906. She was one of six children: Luther ("Bud"), Algie, Thelma, Anna Maria, Esther, and Mark. Her parents, Lars and Annie (Nielsen) Eggertsen , were the children of Danish immigrants who walked across the plains to Utah seeking freedom to worship as Mormons. The Eggertsens were Republicans, but Esther Peterson became an active Democrat, working in the fields of education, labor, women's rights and consumer affairs all her adult life.

Peterson attended public schools, was graduated from Brigham Young University (1927), taught in Utah for two years, and came east in 1929 to attend Teachers College at Columbia University. There she met her future husband, Oliver Peterson, and completed her masters degree (1930). Between 1930 and 1939, EP taught at the Winsor School in Boston; married Oliver Peterson; volunteered in the Industrial Department of the YWCA; was a labor organizer; joined Hilda Smith, a pioneer in workers' education, at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers; and had her first child.

The 1940s were devoted to her family (Oliver Peterson and four children: Karen, Eric, Iver, and Lars), and to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Most of the next ten years the Petersons spent overseas, where Oliver Peterson, a foreign service officer, was the United States Labor Attaché to Sweden, and later to Belgium. EP worked with the trade union movement and helped organize the first International School for Working Women.

When the Petersons returned to the U.S. in 1957, EP became legislative representative for the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO (1958-1961), serving until President John F. Kennedy chose her to head the Women's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, and later the same year, to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor Standards. In addition, she was appointed executive vice chairman of the first President's Commission on the Status of Women (1961-1963), chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt until her death in 1962. EP also helped found the National Committee on Household Employment, an organization that brought together voluntary organizations and government agencies under the auspices of the Women's Bureau (1964-1965) to improve the working conditions of household workers, develop training programs, and change public attitudes about household employees. According to EP, the "Committee began with a suggestion I made to the National Association of Women when they gave me the year's award which carried $3,000. This was the seed money to get the Committee started. Sears and Whirlpool helped."

After President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked EP to remain as Women's Bureau director, and also named her to the newly created post of Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs, a position she held until 1967. Until her re-appointment to this post by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, she worked as the legislative representative to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Association (1969-1970), and then as Consumer Advisor to Giant Food, a grocery store chain in the Washington, D.C. area (1970-1977). Oliver Peterson died in 1979 at the age of 76, ending a mutually devoted, lifelong partnership.

After serving in the Carter Administration, EP worked with various organizations concerned with the rights of consumers, both in the United States and abroad. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as a public member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. Esther Peterson died in her home in Washington, D.C. on December 20, 1997, at the age of 91.

Peterson helped to organize textile and garment workers as well as teachers; was instrumental in bringing about legislative victories for the minimum wage, amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, truth-in-packaging, truth-in-lending, unit pricing, and product labeling of ingredients; worked actively for the rights of women, minorities, workers, consumers, and household employees; campaigned extensively for Democratic candidates; and traveled and lectured to a wide range of groups.

From the guide to the Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1988 (bulk), (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Rocking the Boat, ...Interviews and research materials, 1930-2001, 1992-1998 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Papers of Bernice Resnick Sandler, 1963-2008 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Council of Economic Advisers (Carter Administration). 1976 - 1981. Charles L. Schultze's Subject Files. 1977 - 1981. Peterson, Esther Jimmy Carter Library
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1998 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Albums, 1861-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, 1967-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers: Series I-IV, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1998 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Frieda S. Miller, 1909-1973 (inclusive), 1929-1967 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn United States. President's Commission on the Status of Women. Records, 1961-1963 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn J. Walter Thompson Company. Writings and Speeches, 1912-2000 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers, 1942-1971 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hillman, Bessie. Bessie Hillman correspondence, 1930-1970, 1945-1970 (bulk). Cornell University Library
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-. Reminiscences of Esther Peterson : oral history, 1983. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Audiotape collection of the National Women's Conference, 1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Agency for International Development. 1948 - 2003. Records Relating to the United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of the Less Developed Areas National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Lee, Percy Maxim, 1906-. The reminiscences of Percy M. Lee. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888-. Papers, 1837-1975 (inclusive), 1900-1975 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (University of Michigan--Wayne State University). Program on Women and Work. Transcripts of oral history project, 1970-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1837 (1900-1975) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn East, Catherine Shipe. Papers of Catherine Shipe East. 1941-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Friedan, Betty, 1921-2006. Papers, 1933-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Mary O. Eastwood, (inclusive), (bulk), 1915-1983, 1961-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn William Ernest Hocking papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1968 -1983 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Miller, Emma Guffey, 1874-1970. Papers: Series III-IV, 1900-1972 (inclusive) [microform]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Miller, Frieda S. Papers, 1909-1973 (inclusive), 1929-1967 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. The reminiscences of Esther Peterson. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895-. Papers, 1870s-1989 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Audiotapes, 1959-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1870s-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson). Papers of Clara Mortenson Beyer, 1911-1974 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1988 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1917-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Photographs, 1910-1975, pt.2. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Weston E. Vivian Papers, 1964-1968 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Ellickson, Katherine Pollak, 1905-1996. Papers, 1976-1989 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, 1961-1963 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (University of Michigan-Wayne State University). Program on Woman and Work. Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, Women and Work Program (University of Michigan) transcripts of oral history project, 1978-1979. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers: Series V-X, 1920-1997 (inclusive), 1948-1997 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 4/20/78 Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn O'Farrell, Brigid. O'Farrell and Kornbluh papers, 1889-1996. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Consumers' Research, Inc. Consumerism general files--governments and the consumer, 1927-1981. Rutgers University
referencedIn Papers, ca. 1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Albums, ca., 1861-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Norby, Marian O. Papers, 1962-1971 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Monroe J. and Shirley Brockbank Paxman collection, 1900-2013 L. Tom Perry Special Collections
referencedIn Rupp, Leila J., 1950-. Audiotape collection of Leila J. Rupp and Verta A. Taylor, 1979-1983. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Consumers Union of United States. Archives. Oral history collection, 1972-1979. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Ad Hoc Committee on the Human Rights and Genocide Treaties. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1972. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. [Videotape collection] [videorecording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Women and Work collection, 1978. Yale University Library
creatorOf Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Meeting Files National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Knight, George, 1914-2000. George Knight papers, 1955-1986 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891. Papers, 1870-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Consumers' League Records, 1882-1986, (bulk 1920-1950) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 2/3/78 Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn Pertschuk, Michael, 1933-. Michael Pertschuk papers, 1949-2002 (bulk 1977-2001). Library of Congress
referencedIn Women and Work Collection, 1978 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Partridge, E. DeAlton, 1906-. Papers, 1964. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Michael Pertschuk Papers, 1949-2002, (bulk 1977-2001) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Videotapes, 1979-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sage Colleges Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1979, Esther Eggertsen Peterson. The Sage Colleges Libraries
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997,. Oral history interview with Esther Peterson, 1977. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Papers, 1898-1975 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Consumers' League. National Consumers' League records, 1882-1986 (bulk 1920-1950). Library of Congress
creatorOf Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964,. [Oral history interview] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Trade union women oral history project, 1978-1979 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Lawrence Arnstein Papers, 1915-1979 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson). Additional papers, 1959-1979 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn [Memorial service] [sound recording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Communications Dept., Biography files. Pt.3. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers, 1991-1999 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Miller, Emma Guffey, 1874-1970. Papers, 1833-1975 (bulk: 1884-1972) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf O'Farrell, Brigid. Brigid O'Farrell interviews and research materials for book Rocking the Boat, 1930-2001 (bulk 1992-1998) University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey. Additional papers, 1857-1976 (inclusive), 1912-1971 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980. Oral history interviews of the Biography: Helen Gahagan Douglas Oral History Project, 1973-1983. Indiana University
referencedIn Newman, Pauline. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Newman, Pauline, ca. 1890-1986. Papers, 1900-1980 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Foreign Service Spouse Oral History, Inc. Transcripts of oral history project, 1986-1993 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
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associatedWith Peace Corps (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Peggy Lamson person
associatedWith Pepper, Claude, 1900- person
associatedWith Pepper, Claude, 1900-1989. person
associatedWith Percy Maxim Lee person
correspondedWith Pertschuk, Michael, 1933- person
associatedWith Pete McCloskey person
associatedWith Peterson, Oliver A. (Oliver Arthur), 1903-1979 person
associatedWith Peterson, Oliver A. (Oliver Arthur), 1903-1979. person
associatedWith Potofsky, Jacob S. (Jacob Samuel), 1894-1979 person
associatedWith Potofsky, Jacob S. (Jacob Samuel), 1894-1979. person
associatedWith President's Commission on the Status of Women corporateBody
associatedWith President's Commission on the Status of Women (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith President's Council on Consumer Interests (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith President's Council on Consumer Interests (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Professional Insurance Agents corporateBody
associatedWith Professional Insurance Agents. corporateBody
associatedWith Rachel Carson Council, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Rachel Carson Council, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Ralph Nader. person
associatedWith Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895- person
associatedWith Rawalt, Marguerite, 1895- person
associatedWith Reading, Lady Stella person
associatedWith Reading, Stella, Lady. person
associatedWith Reagan, Ronald person
associatedWith Reagan, Ronald. person
correspondedWith Reuther, Walter person
associatedWith Reuther, Walter, 1907- person
associatedWith Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970 person
associatedWith Roche, James person
associatedWith Roche, James. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1914-1988 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1914-1988. person
associatedWith Rosalynn Carter. person
associatedWith Ross, Martha, person
associatedWith Roth Brent person
associatedWith Roxane Witke person
associatedWith Ruder, William person
associatedWith Ruder, William. person
associatedWith Rudolf Berner person
associatedWith Rupp, Leila J., 1950- person
associatedWith Ruth Montgomery person
associatedWith Sampson, Edith person
associatedWith Sid Davis person
associatedWith Simchak, Morag person
associatedWith Simchak, Morag. person
associatedWith Smith, Hilda Worthington person
associatedWith Smith, Hilda Worthington. person
associatedWith Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888- person
associatedWith Solomon, Goody L. person
associatedWith Solomon, Goody L. person
associatedWith Sorenson, Virginia Eggertsen, 1912- person
associatedWith Sorenson, Virginia Eggertsen, 1912- person
associatedWith Sparks, Grace person
associatedWith Sparks, Grace. person
associatedWith Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs corporateBody
associatedWith Stark, Helen Candland person
associatedWith Stark, Helen Candland. person
associatedWith Stegner, Wallace, 1909-1993. person
associatedWith Stegner, Wallace Earle, 1909- person
associatedWith Stu Eisenstat person
associatedWith Swankin, David A. person
associatedWith Swankin, David A. person
associatedWith Taylor, MaryGay person
associatedWith Tiernan, Kip person
associatedWith Tiernan, Kip. person
associatedWith United Nations corporateBody
associatedWith United Nations. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Commission on Federal Paperwork. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Consumer Advisory Council. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Department of Labor corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Labor. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Labor. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Trade Commission corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Trade Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. President's Commission on the Status of Women. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. President's Commission on the Status of Women. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Women's Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Women's Bureau. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Wagenen, Lola person
associatedWith Van Wagenen, Lola. person
associatedWith Vivian, Weston Edward, 1924- person
associatedWith von Eltz, Sylvia person
associatedWith von Eltz, Sylvia. person
associatedWith Ware, Caroline F. (Caroline Farrar), 1899-1990 person
associatedWith Ware, Caroline F. (Caroline Farrar), 1899-1990. person
associatedWith Warne, Colston E. (Colston Estey), 1900-1987 person
associatedWith Warne, Colston E. (Colston Estey), 1900-1987. person
associatedWith Washington Opportunities for Women, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Washington Opportunities for Women, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. corporateBody
associatedWith Weight, Thelma person
associatedWith Weight, Thelma. person
associatedWith Weisz, Morris, 1914- person
associatedWith Weisz, Morris, 1914- person
associatedWith White House Conference on Aging corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Aging. corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health (1969 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health (1969: Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Williams, Harrison A. person
associatedWith Williams, Harrison A. person
associatedWith Winsor School. corporateBody
associatedWith Wirtz, Willard, 1912- person
associatedWith Wirtz, Willard, 1912-2010. person
associatedWith Woman's National Democratic Club (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Woman's National Democratic Club (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Women's Equity Action League corporateBody
associatedWith Women's National Press Club corporateBody
associatedWith Women's National Press Club. corporateBody
associatedWith Woodruff, Virginia person
associatedWith Yarborough, Ralph Webster, 1903- person
associatedWith Yarborough, Ralph Webster, 1903- person
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Sweden 08 ID
Provo UT US
Washington, D. C. DC US
Kingdom of Belgium 00 BE
Subject
Aged
Advertising
Archival resources
Boycotts
Breastfeeding promotion
Business and politics
Political campaigns
Civil rights
Collective bargaining
Consumer affairs directors
Consumer complaints
Consumer education
Consumer protection
Consumer protection
Consumer protection
Consumers
Danish Americans
Diplomats' spouses
Economic development
Economic policy
Equal pay for equal work
Equal rights amendments
Food
Food industry and trade
Food law and legislation