A Brief History of Frances Perkins
Born in Boston, Maine in 1880, Frances Perkins came from a respectable middle-class Republican family. At a very young age, Perkins’s parents strongly encouraged her to live her life on earth for God and do something good in her lifetime to please not only her parents, but God as well (Frances Perkins, 2010). She later on enrolled at Mount Holyoke College and studied natural sciences, but had a strong interest in economic history and social reform issues as well. By 1909, Perkins went on to graduate school at Columbia University and earned a master’s degree in economics and sociology (Frances Perkins, 2010). The importance of Frances Perkins in history is obvious. She became the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in the U.S. and held the position of secretary of labor for the entire duration of Roosevelt’s presidency (Frances Perkins, 2010). Throughout her work career, Perkins dedicated most of her time by improving the lives of workers in the U.S. Furthermore, she brought the concerns of economic justice and security for all Americans forward during the political agenda of her day (Frances Perkins, 2010).
Perkins grew up towards the end of the 19th century, which was a time of economic change and social transformation. This period was known as the Progressive Era and lasted from about 1875 to 1925 (Segal, Gerdes, & Steiner, 2010). This was a time when jobs and income shifted from agriculture to more industrialized jobs (e.g., factories, the railroad expansion, and cheap labor from immigrants). A rising concern during this time was the complete contrast between agricultural and manufacturing job settings. For instance, manufacturing jobs were extremely dangerous and the working conditions or tasks were unregulated, thus the workers were under complete control of the factory owners (Segal, Gerdes, & Steiner, 2010). During the Progressive Era, major social, economical, and political changes cropped up to lessen...
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