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Frances Perkins

Yesterday–March 4th–in 1933, Frances Perkins, a sharp-witted, brilliant, compassionate woman, became the Secretary of Labor of the U.S., the first woman cabinet member.  Her condition for accepting the appointment was that President Franklin Roosevelt had to agree to  support her agenda, so he did. With her familiar tricorn hat ( (her mother told her to always wear a hat that is wider than her cheekbones to avoid looking “ridiculous”) set 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.  She accomplished all her goal, except providing health care. The subject of my second biography, Frances Perkins gave me many life lessons, in particular: “You just can’t be afraid . . .if you’re going to accomplish anything.” 

The photo is me with Frances Perkin’s grandson Tomlin Coggeshall, taken during a talk I gave at Mount Holyoke College, Frances Perkins’ alma mater.

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