Esther Peterson

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Esther Peterson
Esther Peterson 1962.jpg
Peterson in 1962
2nd Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Virginia Knauer
Succeeded by Virginia Knauer
1st Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs
In office
January 3, 1964 – May 1, 1967
President Lyndon Johnson
Preceded by Position created
Executive Vice Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women
In office
President John F. Kennedy
Preceded by Position created
4th Director of the United States Women's Bureau
In office
President John F. Kennedy
Preceded by Alice K. Leopold
Succeeded by Mary Dublin Keyserling
Personal details
Born Esther Eggertsen
(1906-12-09)December 9, 1906
Provo, Utah, U.S.
Died December 20, 1997(1997-12-20) (aged 91)
Oliver Peterson (m. 1932)
Children 4
Alma mater Brigham Young University (1927)
Teachers College, Columbia University (1930)

Esther Eggertsen Peterson (December 9, 1906 – December 20, 1997) was a lifelong consumer and women's advocate.


The daughter of Danish immigrants, Esther Eggertsen grew up in a Mormon family in Provo, Utah. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 1927 with a degree in physical education, and a master's from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1930.[1] She held several teaching positions in the 1930s, including one at the innovative Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which brought milliners, telephone operators and garment workers onto the campus.[2]

She moved to New York City where she married Oliver Peterson. In 1932, the two moved to Boston, where she taught at The Winsor School and volunteered at the YWCA.


In 1938, Peterson became a paid organizer for the American Federation of Teachers and traveled around New England. In 1944, Peterson became the first lobbyist for the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. In 1948, the State Department offered Peterson’s husband a position as a diplomat in Sweden. The family returned to Washington D.C., in 1957 and Peterson joined the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, becoming its first woman lobbyist.

She was Assistant Secretary of Labor and Director of the United States Women's Bureau under President John F. Kennedy. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson named Peterson to the newly created post of Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs.[3] She would later serve as President Jimmy Carter's Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs.

Peterson was also Vice President for Consumer Affairs at Giant Food Corporation, and president of the National Consumers League.

She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.[4] Peterson was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board in 1982. She was named a delegate of the United Nations as a UNESCO representative in 1993.


Peterson died on December 20, 1997.[2]

See also[edit]


  • Restless: The Memoirs of Labor and Consumer Activist Esther Peterson (Caring Publishing, 1997)

External links[edit]