Wednesday, April 1, 2015

OBIT | Janet Norwood, BLS Commissioner, 1979-1991

Janet L. Norwood
Janet Norwood died on March 27 of Alzheimer's Disease.

In 1979 she became the first woman to be  Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics when she was appointed by President Carter.

She was reappointed twice by President Reagan.

Born in Newark as Janet Sonya Lippe on December 11, 1923, she attended schools in Irvington, N.J. and then what is now Douglass College at Rutgers and then the Fletcher School at Tufts University, from which she received her doctorate.

She taught economics at Wellesley College before she interrupted her career to join her husband Bernard Norwood for work as a Foreign Service Officer in Belgium.

Under her leadership, the BLS fought for its independence from political interference with its data-collection mission, even within the Department of Labor.

She was quoted by The New York Times as saying in 1982:
I find it a stimulating challenge. There are always a variety of innovative senators and representatives who raise questions that I have to be very careful to answer in a completely objective framework.
After leaving the BLS in 1991, she joined the Urban Institute as a Senior Fellow, remaining there until 1999.

She was appointed Chair of the Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation, first by President George H. W. Bush in 1993 and then by President Clinton, serving until 1996.

Among her many awards was an honorary doctorate from Harvard.