Frances Perkins, class of 1902: Celebrating an incredible 136 year legacy

April 12, 2016 at 1:40 PM

Frances PerkinsFrances Perkins found her purpose by asking not "what do I want from my own life?" but instead, "what does life want from me?"

Frances Perkins 1902 is one of Mount Holyoke's most celebrated alumnae. This month we're celebrating Frances Perkinsin honor of her 136th birthday anniversary April 10. As the first female Cabinet member in US history, and Roosevelt's trusted adviser,  Frances Perkins was an inspirational trailblazer who dramatically changed the plight of laborers in America. The crowning achievements of her life and career are succinctly summed up by former Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz, who pays tribute to Frances in this statement: "Every man and woman who works at a living wage, under safe conditions, for reasonable hours, or who is protected by unemployment insurance or social security, is her debtor."

Read more about Frances Perkins from David Brook's 2015 article in The Atlantic:

"Perkins was one of only two top aides to stay with Roosevelt for his entire term as president. She became one of the tireless champions of the New Deal. She was central to the creation of the Social Security system. She was a major force behind many of the New Deal jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps,the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Works Administration. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act she established the nation’s first minimum wage law and its first overtime law. She sponsored federal legislation on child labor and unemployment insurance. During World War II she resisted calls to draft women,sensing that women would benefit more over the long run if they could take the jobs that were being abandoned by drafted men."

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