Friday, April 10, 2009

Frances Perkins

Frances Perkins was born on this date 1880. She was the first female cabinet secretary. If one person in government was responsible for Social Security or a minimum wage, it was she.

She witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, of 25 March 1911, in New York City. 146 people died, 129 of them female. Immigrant girls worked 60 and 72 hour weeks for six or seven dollars. Two years earlier there had been a strike. The owners hired goons to beat the girls, they hired street whores as scabs to further humiliate the girls.

From 1918 she worked in government for justice for labor, for women, for children, and for America, first under Al Smith, and then his successor, Franklin Roosevelt. She is sadly neglected. The Washington National Airport could be renamed in her honor.

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