top of page


Household Name, or Should be

Today April 10 is the birthday of a person on my list of household names—Frances Perkins, champion of workers' rights and first woman presidential cabinet member. April 10 is the day in 1980 that the Department of Labor building in Washington, D.C., was named for Frances Perkins. The first image is of that ceremony with President Jimmy Carter at the podium. The second image is of a display about Frances Perkins in the lobby. The text on the bronze plaque with a bas relief of her reads: THIS BUILDING IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF FRANCES PERKINS, SECRETARY OF LABOR, 1933-1945, WHOSE LEGACY OF SOCIAL ACTION ENHANCES THE LIVES OF ALL AMERICAN WORKERS. IN WARTIME AND PEACE, IN DEPRESSION AND RECOVERY SHE ARTICULATED THE HOPES AND DREAMS OF WORKING PEOPLE AND WORKED UNTIRINGLY TO MAKE THOSE HOPES AND DREAMS A REALITY THROUGH THE FORCE OF HER MORAL COURAGE, INTELLECT, AND WILL, SHE BROUGHT SWEEPING CHANGES TO OUR NATIONAL LAWS AND PRACTICES AND FOREVER IMPROVED OUR SOCIETY. The “sweeping changes to our national laws and practices,” included safer working conditions, fairer wages, regulation of child labor, and the creation of unemployment insurance and Social Security The third image is the cover of my brief biography of Frances Perkins: A Woman Unafraid: The Achievements of Frances Perkins. Insightful and articulate, Frances Perkins left a treasure trove of quotes that I included in my book, e.g., “You just can’t be afraid . . . if you’re going to accomplish anything.”

The last image, Frances Perkins Place, is a street sign that was dedicated in New York City on March 26, 2022.

A recording of my NPR interview with Linda Wertheimer about Frances Perkins on the 70 year anniversary of Social Security. on my website

Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page