- Perkins, Frances
- (1882-1965)Born Fannie Coralie Perkins, Frances Perkins was a graduate in chemistry and physics of Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University. She taught from 1904 to 1907 and also worked in the Chicago Commons and Hull House settlements. Perkins became executive secretary of the New York Consumer’s League from 1910 to 1912 and worked as an authority on industrial safety with the New York Committee of Safety from 1912 to 1917. She served on the Industrial Commission of New York State in 1921 and was appointed by Alfred E. Smith to chair the New York State Industrial Board in 1926. She held the position until 1929, when she became secretary of labor for New York under Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. She worked to improve workmen’s compensation, conditions and hours of work, and factory inspection, and she called for unemployment insurance at the national level. Following his election to the presidency, Roosevelt made Perkins the first woman cabinet officer when he appointed her secretary of labor in 1933.Perkins was involved in shaping several pieces of New Deal legislation, including the Social Security Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. She also tried to persuade the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations to come to some agreement but was not successful. Employers often attacked her for being too soft on trade unions, and in 1938 there was an attempt to impeach her for failing to deport the Australian-born leader of the Californian longshoreman, Harry Bridges.During World War II, many of the functions of the Labor Department were handled by war agencies. Perkins remained at her post until July 1945, when President Harry S. Truman appointed her to the Civil Service Commission. She held the position until 1952. Afterward Perkins became a lecturer at a number of universities and in the late 1950s held a visiting professorship at Cornell.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.