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Heroes You Should Know:

Frances Perkins was the first woman named to the United States Presidential Cabinet, and as Secretary of Labor for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s entire term was arguably the conscience of the New Deal Era. A social reformer, the trajectory of her life was forever altered by personally witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the deadliest industrial accident in the history of New York City where 146 garment workers perished---many because managers had locked the doors to the exits and stairwells to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks. She caught the eye of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when she headed the New York Consumers League in 1910 and fought diligently for better hours and workplace conditions for laborers. And when he was elected governor of New York, FDR appointed Perkins New York State Commissioner of Labor. Simply by virtue of being the first woman named to a presidential cabinet Frances Perkins’ legacy would be noteworthy.  But when one considers the fact that she was largely responsible for the United States instituting social security, a minimum wage, unemployment benefits, a 40-hour work week, and regulation of child labor she becomes an icon for justice in the workplace. In addition to her years of service as Secretary of Labor, Perkins was also a university professor, an author, and at the special request of President Truman a member of the United States Civil Service Commission. Frances Perkins labored for labor with uncommon courage, and in the process reminded America that human dignity is a fragile and precious gift that must be fought for and protected. Frances Perkins is a hero you should know.  And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.

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