The Woman Who Helped a President Change America During His First 100 Days

In Economy, Social Security and Retirement On
- Updated

In the photo, the president is smiling as he signs one of the most influential laws in American history: the Social Security Act.

On that August day in 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt was surrounded by a phalanx of White men and one woman, Frances Perkins, the main architect of Social Security and much of FDR’s New Deal.

Today, 69 million Americans receive Social Security payments of some kind, but few people know the name of Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. The groundbreaking labor secretary paved the way for the women who came after her, including the record number President Biden has chosen for his Cabinet: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Deb Haaland, expected to be confirmed as interior secretary, among others.

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