This week marks the 79th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security Act. Franklin Roosevelt deserves plaudits, of course, but special credit should always go to the architect of the plan, the Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins.
I just completed reading one of my birthday presents: The Woman Behind The New Deal The Life Of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary Of Labor And His Moral Conscience by Kirstin Downey. I especially like the part of the title: "His Moral Conscience".
Perkins has been one of my heroines since I first read about her as a youngster. At a time when women did not usually hold public office, she was a controversial choice as FDR's Secretary of Labor and was the first female to hold a Cabinet position. She was responsible for the enactment of the minimum wage, work-hour limitations, and most importantly, the Social Security Act. She was not able to achieve another of her goals--national health care--but when it was enacted more than 80 years after she proposed it--I said that it should have been called the Frances Perkins Affordable Care Act.
During her term, the witch-hunters in Congress tried to have her IMPEACHED because she refused to have Australian native Harry Bridges, the leader of the Longshoremen's Union, deported because he was suspected of being a Communist. Although Perkins disliked Bridges because of his personal behavior, she would not sacrifice her own integrity--her"moral conscience"-- because she knew that Bridges was being treated unfairly. Oh, how we need people like her today!
Read here an excerpt and a good review of the book from NPR.