Esther Peterson (1906 — 1997)
"...make a difference by the way you live your life."
A lifelong advocate for workers and consumers, Esther Peterson was the highest ranking woman in President John F. Kennedy’s administration. During her near decade tenure at the Labor Department, she fought to improve labor standards and advocated on behalf of working women. The daughter of Danish immigrants, she was a fierce proponent of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. That same year, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, of which she was Executive Vice Chair, issued a groundbreaking report called American Women. Addressing issues such as a job discrimination, equal pay for equal work, and daycare, the report formed a cornerstone for policies that enhanced women's participation in the many aspects of American life. As the mother of four, she knew firsthand the challenges of balancing the demands of career and family, and pushed to establish a day care center at the Labor Department, which was the first on-site day care center at a federal government agency. Today, the department's child development center, which first opened its doors in 1968, bears her name.