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Perkins, Francis

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 5 months ago
Frances Perkins **also spelled Francis

 Frances Perkins questions.doc


Overview of Frances and Time Period


As a prominent woman involved in rights for laborers and  unions, Frances Perkins had a passion for reform.  Like Carrie Chapman Catt, she was involved in womens rights and many movements toward reform because events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  She was involved in many Fair Deal Projects, which impacted the Social Security system which still affects Americans today.  Along with Samuel Gompers and Eugene V. Debs, Frances Perkins reformed the monopolistic powers that crippled the people in the early 1900’s.  http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/history/history/perkins.cfm


She grew up in a Republican middle class home in Maine and graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1902. While in school, she majored in natural sciences and read How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis. It exposed the conditions of the New York slums.  The lectures that Florence Kelley spoke at were also very motivational for Perkins.  She became a key person in the women’s voting rights. Perkins wanted to live for God and do something that impacted the lives of others, so after graduation she took a progression of jobs.  Some of these included being a teacher and a head of a few settlement houses. She worked as a secretary for the New York Consumers’ League, and worked along with Florence Kelley. With her passion for immigrant and woments rights came the love of children.  She lobbied for the state legislature to pass a bill limiting the workweek for women and children to 54 hours.


 One of the most influential experiences that Perkins witnessed was the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. In this tragedy in 1911, about 146 workers, most of whom were women, died in a fire in their workplace on the upper floors. Watching the women jump out of the windows and fall to their death greatly impacted her political life. "[It was] seared on my mind as well as my heart—a never-to-be-forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such a tragedy" Francis said. In addition to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, she witnessed many labor movements and the uproars created by the movements.  Through all of this she adopted some of the views of people like Rose Schneiderman who believed that the solution to poverty was organization. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USARperkins.htm 





Actively involved in politics, Francis became a member of the socialist party. It did not take long, however, for her to find that practical solutions were more effective than the stances that the socialists held. As a result, she voted for Woodrow Wilson in the Election of 1912, not Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate.

 In 1918 Francis was invited to be the first female member of the New York Industrial Commission by Al Smith. She accepted and moved up in status until 1929 when Franklin D. Roosevelt made her commissioner of the state of New York. She made massive reforms to women’s and children’s work week and started New York in the direction of the progressive movement.

 In 1933, she was promoted to Secretary of Labor and became the first woman in history to be in the Cabinet. While in that position she believed that states needed money for unemployment relief. She wanted to research minimum and put into effect a minimum wage, a form of Social Security, and a huge public works program. (See video for more information about her thoughts on Social Security.)   She helped in reforms like the Wagner Act, that gave the right for unions to bargain collectively, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, that gave a minimum wage and a workweek for both men and women. She invoked a law that prohibited teens (ages 16-18) to work in hazardous jobs. Francis held the position of Secretary of Labor until Roosevelt died. To commemorate his death, she wrote a book titled The Roosevelt I Knew that was published in 1946 .

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Frances Perkins died on May 14, 1965.  The impact that she made in our society today is still eveident. Her determination and dreams of a liberated nation created better working conditions, employment, and care for the aged. Her work is still remembered by the Department of Labor, who have named their building “The Frances Perkins Building”.




 Eric Foner, John A. Garraty.  "Frances Perkins." THE READER'S COMPANION TO AMERICAN HISTORY n.p. 01 Dec 1999. 26 Mar 2008.  <http://www.sirs.com>

"Frances Perkins (1880 - 1965)." AFL-CIO. 2008. AFL-CIO. 27 Mar 2008 <http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/history/history/perkins.cfm>. 

 "Frances Perkins: A Woman of Vision." Access Washington. 2008. Washington Government. 1 Apr 2008 <http://www.wa.gov/esd/ui/ui101/frances.htm>.

 "Frances Perkins." Spartacus. Spartacus. 27 Mar 2008 <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USARperkins.htm>.





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Page created by: Miriam B

Avon High School, Avon, Indiana

Date created: 3-20-07




Comments (3)

Anonymous said

at 9:04 pm on Mar 23, 2008

Miriam, Wow, you have some great information! I know you are just getting started, but I saw some great places to add links, I hope you take advantage of them. Also, check her name at the top. When I open the page, her name is cut off at the top.

Anonymous said

at 8:11 pm on Mar 25, 2008

Your audio is awesome! This is what I am looking for, it is original and relevant. I saw that there was a title of her speech about 2/3 of the way through, but you may add a a sentence that gives the reader a preview of what they are about to hear. Great job so far.

Anonymous said

at 7:37 am on Apr 11, 2008

I thought that this was a very informative, if short, wiki page. It was interesting to learn about a female politcal activist in the early 1900's, which seldom occured.

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