Esther Peterson
Peterson in 1962
2nd Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byVirginia Knauer
Succeeded byVirginia Knauer
1st Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs
In office
January 3, 1964 – May 1, 1967
PresidentLyndon Johnson
Preceded byOffice established
Executive Vice Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women
In office
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byOffice established
4th Director of the United States Women's Bureau
In office
January 20, 1961 – January 3, 1964
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Preceded byAlice K. Leopold
Succeeded byMary Dublin Keyserling
Personal details
Esther Eggertsen

(1906-12-09)December 9, 1906
Provo, Utah, U.S.
DiedDecember 20, 1997(1997-12-20) (aged 91)
Oliver Peterson
(m. 1932)
Alma materBrigham Young University (1927)
Teachers College, Columbia University (1930)

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


The daughter of Danish immigrants, Esther Eggertsen grew up in a Mormon family in Provo, Utah.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4]

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.[5]


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.[6]

She was Assistant Secretary of Labor and Director of the United States Women's Bureau under fellow Bostonian President John F. Kennedy.[7][8] In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson named Peterson to the newly created post of Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs.[9] 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.[10] Peterson was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board in 1982. In 1990, the American Council on Consumer Interests created the Esther Peterson Consumer Policy Forum lectureship, which is presented annually at the council's conference.[11] She was named a delegate of the United Nations as a UNESCO representative in 1993. In that same year, Peterson was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[12]


Peterson died on December 20, 1997.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Esther Eggertsen Peterson | AFL-CIO". Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  2. ^ "Esther Peterson - American consumer advocate".
  3. ^ "Esther Peterson Personal Papers | JFK Library". Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  4. ^ a b Molotsky, Irvin (22 December 1997). "Esther Peterson Dies at 91; Worked to Help Consumers". The New York Times. New York. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  5. ^ Cobble, Dorothy Sue; Bowes, Julia (2014). "Peterson, Esther (09 December 1906–20 December 1997), government official, consumer and labor activist, and women's rights advocate". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1501361. ISBN 978-0-19-860669-7. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  6. ^ Arnesen, Eric (2007). Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415968263.
  7. ^ Martin, Janet M. (2009-09-13). The Presidency and Women: Promise, Performance, and Illusion. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 9781603441544.
  8. ^ Molotsky, Irvin; Times, Special To the New York (1986-12-08). "WASHINGTON TALK: WORKING PROFILE; EVERYMAN'S ADVOCATE: ESTHER PETERSON". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  9. ^ "Esther Peterson To Be Elevated". The Sumpter Daily Item. January 3, 1964. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  10. ^ President (1977-1981 : Carter). White House Staff Photographers (20 January 1977). "Jimmy Carter - Presenting the Medal of Freedom to Roger Baldwin (not in attendance), Harold Brown, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Warren Christopher, Walter Cronkite, Kirk Douglas, Dr. Karl Menninger (not in attendance), Edmund S. Muskie, Margaret McNamara, Esther Peterson, Ambassador Gerard C. Smith, Robert S. Strauss, Judge Elbert Tuttle, Chief Justice Earl Warren (posthumously), Ambassador Andrew Young". Archived from the original on 4 August 2022. Retrieved 7 December 2017 – via US National Archives Research Catalog.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Esther Peterson Award". Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  12. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Esther Peterson