Frances Perkins


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(b. 10 Apr. 1882, d. 14 May 1965).

US Secretary of Labor 1933–45 Born at Boston, Massachusetts, she graduated from Mount Holyoke College, and took a graduate degree at Columbia. She took up social work, working in New York City from 1910 until 1929. Like many progressives of her generation, she was deeply affected by the New York Clothing Co. Triangle Factory fire on 25 March 1911, whereupon she campaigned for better health and safety legislation. She caught the attention of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who as Governor appointed her state industrial commissioner (1929–32). During the New Deal, against bitter business and political opposition, she became Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, the first woman Cabinet member in the USA. She served in this position throughout Roosevelt's Presidency. Perkins played an active role in minimum wage and maximum hours legislation, and helped to draft the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938). More than anyone else, she was responsible for the 1935 Social Security Act, having chaired the committee which drafted it. This became a milestone in American government, giving it a role in the provision of social security.

Subjects: History — Politics.

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