1933 March 4

Frances Perkins: First Female Cabinet Member


Appointed Secretary of Labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve as a member of the Cabinet. She served from this day until 1945, essentially FDR’s entire term as president. She had previously been Commissioner of Labor for the State of New York under Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. She had many accomplishments as Secretary of Labor: Implementing the new Social Security Act; establishing unemployment insurance; and under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, she implemented the first minimum wage and pay for overtime work.

After Perkins married Paul Wilson in 1913, she had to go to court to defend the right to keep her last name (Perkins) rather than change it to her husband’s last name.

Read her story: Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946)

Watch a documentary on Perkins and the New Deal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3zRbw-VxJI

Learn more about Perkins: Kirstin Downey, The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience (2009)

Learn more at the Frances Perkins Center: http://www.francesperkinscenter.org/life.html

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