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The Woman Behind the New Deal

The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR'S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience

Kirstin Downey

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

“Kirstin Downey’s lively, substantive and—dare I say—inspiring new biography of Perkins . . . not only illuminates Perkins’ career but also deepens the known contradictions of Roosevelt’s character.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR Fresh Air
 
One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest friends and the first female secretary of labor, Perkins capitalized on the president’s political savvy and popularity to enact most of the Depression-era programs that are today considered essential parts of the country’s social safety network.

Frances Perkins is no longer a household name, yet she was one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. Based on eight years of research, extensive archival materials, new documents, and exclusive access to Perkins’s family members and friends, this biography is the first complete portrait of a devoted public servant with a passionate personal life, a mother who changed the landscape of American business and society.

Frances Perkins was named Secretary of Labor by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. As the first female cabinet secretary, she spearheaded the fight to improve the lives of America’s working people while juggling her own complex family responsibilities. Perkins’s ideas became the cornerstones of the most important social welfare and legislation in the nation’s history, including unemployment compensation, child labor laws, and the forty-hour work week.

Arriving in Washington at the height of the Great Depression, Perkins pushed for massive public works projects that created millions of jobs for unemployed workers. She breathed life back into the nation’s labor movement, boosting living standards across the country. As head of the Immigration Service, she fought to bring European refugees to safety in the United States. Her greatest triumph was creating Social Security.

Written with a wit that echoes Frances Perkins’s own, award-winning journalist Kirstin Downey gives us a riveting exploration of how and why Perkins slipped into historical oblivion, and restores Perkins to her proper place in history.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Dec 15, 2008 – No individual—not even Eleanor Roosevelt—exerted more influence over the formulation of FDR's New Deal or did more to implement the programs than Frances Perkins (1880–1965). As former Washington Post staff writer Downey makes plain in this deeply researched biography, the first female Cabinet member was the primary shaper of such new concepts as unemployment insurance, the 40-hour work week and—last but not least—Social Security. At a time when the United States stands at the brink of another economic meltdown calling for sweeping federal interventions, Downey provides not only a superb rendering of history but also a large dose of inspiration drawn from Perkins's clearheaded, decisive work with FDR to solve urgent problems diligently and to succeed in the face of what seemed insurmountable odds. Confronting family issues—a frequently institutionalized husband with severe psychiatric problems; a deeply secret lesbian relationship with Mary Harriman Rumsey (sister of Averell Harriman); a daughter from whom she was often estranged—Perkins nevertheless exhibited tireless grace under pressure again and again, always rising to the occasion in the name of every and any progressive cause.
The Woman Behind the New Deal
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Mar 03, 2009
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 496 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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