Frances Perkins (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Perkins, as secretary of labor for twelve years under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the first woman to serve in a president’s cabinet. As secretary of labor, she was instrumental in developing legislation to improve labor conditions for workers. Her most notable achievement was to chair the committee responsible for developing the social security system.
Frances Perkins was born on April 10, 1880, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1882, her family moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, where her father prospered in the stationery business. Known as Fannie Coralie Perkins until her twenty-fifth year, she was raised in the fashion typical of middle-class girls of her generation. Her conservative, New England family upbringing influenced her early life. She was taught to behave like a lady, to be seen but not heard, and to accept her father’s authority on all matters. Her childhood was comfortable and sheltered. She learned to read at a young age and was encouraged to do so by her father. Although she was extremely shy as a young girl, at school she discovered her ability to express herself through words.
School broadened her range of experiences, and she was very involved in a variety of activities. Her ability to debate enabled her to pass her courses with ease, and she was graduated from high school in 1898. Not sure what she wanted to do with her life, Perkins decided that...
(The entire section is 1919 words.)
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Perkins, Frances (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
At a time when few women achieved prominence in national politics, Frances Perkins distinguished herself as a public official, a respected labor and industry expert, and an adviser to the president of the United States. When Perkins was named secretary of labor by President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT in 1933, she became the first woman in U.S. history to hold a cabinet post. Perkins used her position to help launch the sweeping social and economic reforms of the NEW DEAL.
Perkins was born April 10, 1880, in Boston, and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. After graduating from Worcester Classical High School, Perkins attended Mount Holyoke College, where she studied physics and chemistry and was class president. As a senior at Mount Holyoke, Perkins was influenced by Jacob A. Riis's 1890 book How the Other Half Lives and by a speech given by Florence Kelley, the general secretary of the National Consumers League. Perkins's growing awareness of the plight of underprivileged U.S. citizens would lead to her life's work as a labor activist. After graduating from Mount Holyoke in 1902, Perkins pursued further studies in economics and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She earned a master's degree from Columbia in 1910.
After graduate school, Perkins briefly taught biology and physics in a school in Lake Forest, Illinois. In her off-hours, she...
(The entire section is 1070 words.)