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Frances Perkins Papers, 1932-1944 | Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum

Collection Overview

Title: Frances Perkins Papers, 1932-1944Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: Perkins, Frances

Extent: -1.0 Cubic Feet

Arrangement: This collection is arranged into a single series of documentation on general subjects.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The papers consist of materials relating to then-Governor Roosevelt's Conference on Unemployment, April 1932, drafts of speeches, press conferences, radio forums, published articles, a report prepared in December 1943 for President Roosevelt summarizing her first ten years as Secretary of Labor, and incoming and outgoing correspondence with Labor leaders discussing the National Defense Program, 1940-1943.

Collection Historical Note

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in sociology, Frances Perkins worked extensively in settlement house and other social reform work during the Progressive Era. She got her start in government serving on the committee that investigated the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 and later worked for New York Governor Al Smith. Roosevelt and Perkins enjoyed a close working relationship that dated to FDR’s Governorship years, when she served as New York State’s Industrial Commissioner. Her effectiveness in Washington came, in part, from the strong support she received from the President.

Frances Perkins began her government service career in New York State in 1912 as Executive Secretary of the Commission on Safety, a post she held until 1917. She served as Director of Investigations, NY State Factory Commission (1912-1913), Executive Director of the NY Council of Organizations for War Service (1917-1919), Commissioner of the NY State Industrial Commission (1919-1921), Director of the Council of Immigrant Education (1921-1923), Member of the State Industrial Board (1923-1929), and as Chairman of that Board from 1926 to 1929. In 1929 Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins Industrial Commissioner of the State of New York, a post she held until 1932.

In 1933 President Roosevelt appointed her Secretary of Labor, and she served in that capacity through the entire Roosevelt administration until her resignation in June 1945.  She served as the Chairman of the US delegation to the International Labor Organization Conference in Paris, October 1945, and as member of the Civil Service Commission from 1946-1952.

Perkins was the first woman to serve on the presidential cabinet, and thus the first woman to enter the line of succession for the United States Presidency. Among her many accomplishments, Perkins was greatly responsible for the establishment of the New Deal, Social Security, CCC, unemployment insurance, the Fair Labor Standards Act, pensions, and minimum wage. Find more information about life and work of Frances Perkins on the Library's website.

Administrative Information

Repository: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum

Access Restrictions: This collection is available for use by the general public.

Use Restrictions: This material is subject to copyright restrictions under Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

Related Materials: Additional materials related to Frances Perkins can be found throughout the holdings of the FDR Library. This includes significant subject files related to Perkins herself, to the Labor Department, and to the labor movement in general. These materials reside in multiple distinct collections, including Franklin D. Roosevelt's Papers as New York State Governor, his Papers as President, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. Significant collections of Frances Perkins Papers also exist at Columbia University and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. The General Records of the Department Labor comprise Record Group 174, housed by the National Archives primarily in College Park, MD.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: General Subjects, 1932-1944],

Series 1: General Subjects, 1932-1944Add to your cart.

Box 1Add to your cart.

Frances Perkins - Drafts of Speeches I, undated, 1932-1938Add to your cart.
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Frances Perkins - Drafts of Speeches II, 1939-1944Add to your cart.
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Frances Perkins - Drafts of ArticlesAdd to your cart.
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Report to the President, December 31, 1943Add to your cart.
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National Defense Correspondence, 1940-1943Add to your cart.
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