The Ghost in the Machine: Frances Perkins’ Refusal to Accept Marginalization
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Frances Perkins was the United States Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, yet she has received little attention from historians. There are countless works that study President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s years in office, but Perkins’ achievements have yet to enter the mainstream debate of New Deal scholarship. Perkins did not “assist” with the New Deal; she became one of the chief architects of its legislation and a champion of organized labor. Ever mindful of her progressive mentor, Florence Kelley, Perkins stared her reform work at Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago. By the end of FDR’s tenure as president, the forty-hour workweek became standard, child labor was abolished, and she was instrumental in the work-relief programs under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the popular Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and most notably Section 7a of the National Industrial Recovery Administration that allowed for collective bargaining for organized labor. FDR’s controversial appointment marked the first time a female had attained such a powerful position in government, and she wrestled with cross-sections of class, gender, and ethnicity during her tenure as FDR’s Labor Secretary.
Table of Contents
Humble beginnings -- Cabinet appointment -- New Deal architecture -- Conclusion