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Although unknown to most Americans today, Francis Perkins was instrumental in the drafting of New Deal legislation including minimum wage laws. She became the first female cabinet member and the first Secretary of Labor who was never active in a trade union at the beginning of FDR's first term in 1933. As chairwoman of the President's Committee on Economic Security, she was involved in all aspects of the reports and hearings that ultimately resulted in the Social Security Act of 1935.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described Frances Perkins: "Brisk and articulate, with vivid dark eyes, a broad forehead and a pointed chin, usually wearing a felt tricorn hart, she remained a Brahmin reformer, proud of her New England background . . . and intent on beating sense into the heads of those foolish people who resisted progress. She had pungency of character, a dry wit, an inner gaiety, an instinct for practicality, a profound vein of religious feeling, and a compulsion to instruct . . ."

"Perkins left office shortly after Roosevelt died in May 1945. Although harassed by the Dies committee and others because of alleged communist sympathies and publicly hassled for being a woman in a "man's job," in her 12 years as Secretary of Labor her accomplishments both within and outside of the Department were enormous."

She died on May 14, 1965. It is no surprise that Department of Labor building in Washington, D.C., a stoneís throw from the nationís Capitol, is named The Frances Perkins Building.

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Page last modified on September 09, 2005, at 03:36 PM