OTD Frances Perkins

April 4, 2021
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March 4, 1933

The 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and social security, all policies she helped create after becoming the first woman named in a presidential cabinet on this day in 1933.

“The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

Frances Perkins began her work in public service as a social worker. Her pursuit for workers’ rights was shaped during a trip to NYC on the day of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, when nearly 150 workers died. She held many positions in the New York government under then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his predecessor.

“I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.”

Sec. Perkins, who came to the White House to help President Roosevelt draft and implement labor and economic policies during the height of the Great Depression, became the FIRST female cabinet secretary and the LONGEST-serving Labor Secretary in history. As the head of the labor department, she also oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Perkins’ Lasting Legacy

Perkins played a key role in several key parts of FDR’s New Deal – many of which are still in effect today, including:

  • establishing the Social Security program (1935)
  • creating union & collective bargaining laws (1935)
  • enacting child labor laws (1936)
  • setting up federal minimum wage laws & the 40-hour workweek (1938)

In 2008, the Frances Perkins Center was established in Maine to honor Perkins’ legacy and continue her work. The nonprofit and nonpartisan center recently purchased Perkins’ ancestral homestead, which was designated a National Historic Landmark.

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READ MORE ABOUT FRANCES PERKINS:

by Jenna Lee,

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