Pioneering Women and Early Government Leaders

Francis Perkins

15-cent Frances Perkins stamp
The Francis Perkins stamp was issued in 1980.

Facing the turmoil of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt built a team of leaders dedicated to returning prosperity to the country. Francis Perkins (1880-1965) was the perfect candidate, becoming the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet. She had a reputation of successful work with labor groups, having spent 20 years improving working conditions in New York. As Secretary of Labor she was a vital force behind the Social Security Act of 1938, helping to create standards for minimum wage, working hours, worker safety, and unemployment benefits. She continued her work under President Truman as chair of the Civil Service Commission.