Frances Perkins Facts

Frances Perkins Facts
Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a position in the United States Cabinet and the longest serving Secretary of Labor (1933-1945). Her efforts at the Labor Department during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency helped institute many of the social safety nets most Americans now take for granted, including social security and unemployment benefits. Frances was born Fannie Coralie Perkins to Frederick and Susan Perkins on April 10, 1880 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was a successful small business owner who supported his daughter's educational endeavors as she studied classics in high school and graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in 1902. Perkins married Paul Caldwell Wilson in 1913, but ever the independent woman, she never took his surname. The couple would have one child.
Interesting Frances Perkins Facts:
Although Frances' parents were Republicans, she would become a lifelong Democrat.
Frances' father spent much of his spare time tutoring her in classical Greek.
She changed her name to Frances in 1905 after joining the Episcopal Church.
After graduated from college, Frances moved to Chicago where she taught and volunteered to help the homeless and unemployed.
The book, How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis greatly influenced Perkins' world view.
Perkins earned a master's degree from Columbia in political science in 1910
After the New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, Frances dedicated her life's work to improving the conditions of workers in the United States.
Frances studied economics and sociology at the prestigious Wharton School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but never received a degree.
While studying at the Wharton School, opportunities in government presented themselves to Perkins.
The New York City mayor appointed Perkins as the secretary of the New York Citizens Committee on Public Safety in 1918: it was her first public post.
Her professional relationship with Franklin Roosevelt began when he was the governor of New York and appointed her as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor in 1929.
When Roosevelt won the presidential election in 1930, he appointed Perkins to be his Secretary of Labor.
Among the New Deal laws that Perkins promoted in her capacity as Secretary of Labor were the creation of social security, minimum wage laws, and the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Perkins was also instrumental in creating the She-She-She Camps for unemployed women during the Great Depression.
Frances Perkins' image was featured on the cover of a 1933 Time magazine issue and a feature length article was dedicated to her life and career.
After her husband Paul died in 1952, Perkins resigned from public service and went back to teaching.
Frances taught at Cornell University until her death.
Although a life-long champion of the working-class and poor, Perkins was raised in a comfortable upper middle-class Boston family.
Perkins died on May 14, 1965 of a stroke in New York City at the age of eighty-five.
The United States Department of Labor building in Washington, D.C. was renamed the Frances Perkins Building in her honor in 1980.


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