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A Woman Unafraid

Today – March 4, 1933, with the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Frances Perkins became the first woman cabinet member.  President Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins Secretary of Labor during the greatest economic crisis in American history – the Great Depression. At that time, women weren’t supposed to have nontraditional careers, or be outspoken, or occupy a powerful position. But that didn’t stop Frances Perkins.

With her familiar tricorn hat planted firmly on her head, Perkins prodded, pressured, and persuaded businessmen, labor leaders, and politicians to respond to the needs of the American people and end child labor, establish safer working conditions, fairer wages, reasonable working hours, unemployment insurance, and Social Security. Dedicated, disciplined, honest, and often controversial, Frances Perkins exerted a far-ranging influence on twentieth-century America. To accomplish things, she said, “You just can’t be afraid.”  I grew up and went all the way through graduate school never learning about Frances Perkins but once I discovered her she has been an everlasting guiding beacon in my life, especial in these times.

Along with the title of the eleven chapters in my book, A Woman Unafraid: The Achievements of Frances Perkins, I included a quote by Perkins: I could talk well . . .”; “I discovered for the first time . . . that I had a mind.”; “I felt I must sear it not only on my mind but on my heart. . . .”; “Doing means digging your nails in and working like a truck horse.”; “. . .the beauty of loyalty and chivalry between women.”; “It is there to be done, so I do it.”; “We were always in a crisis.”; “It is a great satisfaction. . . .”; “It hurts.”; “I felt I must stand by . . . .”; ” . . .the time has gone so fast.”

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