Frances Perkins (1882–1965)
First Female Cabinet Member
Frances Perkins became the first woman cabinet member in the United States government. She served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945. While in the cabinet, she became chairman of the President's Committee on Economic Security. This committee's report formed the basis for the Social Security Act, passed in 1935.
Fannie Coralie Perkins was born in Boston. She changed her given name to Frances in about 1905. Perkins graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 and received a master's degree from Columbia University in 1910. She soon became a leader in social reform efforts in New York, seeking to improve working conditions through legislation on such issues as safety, maximum hours, and minimum wages. From 1929 to 1933, Perkins served as New York's industrial commissioner. In 1946, President Harry S Truman appointed her to the United States Civil Service Commission. She served on the commission until 1953. Perkins wrote People at Work (1934) and The Roosevelt I Knew (1946).
Submitted by John Matthews, GSAS 1999, who is solely responsible for the content.