Frances Perkins

In tribute to the females of our world, both past and present, this blog will honor a woman every Tuesday.

The First Recipient – Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins, (1880-1965), was born to wealthy Boston parents. She studied at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Though beginning her studies in chemistry and physics she was fascinated by her economics electives.

During a job in Philadelphia where she investigated employment agencies that preyed on immigrant women she enrolled in Wharton College to learn more of economics. From here she moved to New York City attending Columbia University studying political science and becoming involved in the women’s suffrage movement. Offered and obtaining a position at the National Consumer League she became interested in politics.

She was present at the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 female workers met their death due to unsafe working conditions. Theodore Roosevelt named her to the newly created New York State Factory Investigating Commission. After that Theodore’s distant cousin Franklin appointed Frances as Industrial Commissioner to the State of New York.

Upon his election to the presidency Frances became the first female cabinet member serving as Secretary of Labor. Most of the new deal policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were crafted by Miss Perkins. Some of those being:

  • Civilian Conservation Corps
  • Public Works Administration
  • Social Security Act
  • Fair Labors Standards Act
  • Unemployment Benefits.

She was the longest tenured Labor Secretary serving from 1933-1945 and was the first female to be in the line of succession to the Presidency. The headquarters of the Department of Labor in Washington D.C. is named for her, The Frances Perkins Building.

In her retirement years she penned, The Roosevelt I Knew, which became a national best seller. She continued her work as a guest lecturer at Cornell University until her death at 85.

Next week: Misty Copeland

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