Episode 221: Frances Perkins, Part Two

Posted 9 January 2023 by

Frances and her tricorn hat du jour, in 1915. Library of Congress

We knew Frances’ life would take more than one episode, but we didn’t think that it would take three, boy were we wrong! Part Two begins just after Frances’ witnessing of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire and it’s impact on the deepening of her resolve to use her skills for the betterment of American citizens. She began in New York State government, first under Governor Al Smith and then Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She used her intelligence, honesty, and connections to help millions of New Yorkers, and setting an example for women along the way. We also explore her life as a married woman and as a mother, too, she wasn’t all business, you know!

First as a member of the New York State Industrial Commission, and then as the Commissioner of that 1800-employee department, Frances received a crash, hands-on course in workplace issues, specifically Labor v. Management disputes. She researched all the angles, faced a great deal of dangers, and created solutions (and laws to back them up) to make workplaces safe and compensation fair for employees. She also was able to focus a great deal of time on orchestrating legislation that gave women and children workers the safety nets that Unions were able to provide for men.

We take Frances through to her public battles with President Herbert Hoover as she saw the finances for the average family about to take a severe hit in the late 1920s, something he and his government denied. But, as we all know, it’s going to be really hard to deny what happened in that regard in 1929.

Like, impossible.

In Part Three, we’ll take her through the years when she was able to make significant and lasting changes on a federal level–changes still in place today. All media recommendations with be on the shownotes for that episode, although we do talk about this episode on Lillian Gilbreth from 2015 that you might want to listen to before then.