Frances Perkins: The Unsung Heroine of Social Security

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. While President Franklin D. Roosevelt deserves celebration for his visionary leadership, we should also pay tribute to Frances Perkins, a largely forgotten heroine of the FDR era.

The first female cabinet member, Perkins served as Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945. She guided the concept of a retirement security program from the kernel of an idea to execution of one of the most important and popular programs the federal government ever established.

These accomplishments alone are enough for inclusion in history books. But Perkins’ legacy encompasses a broad swath of the social justice landscape. As the driving force behind the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, and the abolition of child labor, Perkins did more to improve the conditions of working Americans than any cabinet member in our history.

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