Tuesday, January 16, 2024

BECOMING MADAM SECRETARY by Stephanie Dray

 An American role model

Frances Perkins came to New York City in the early 20th century to work in settlement houses. She quickly noticed the long working hours and other social injustices that immigrant and poor families faced inspired her to become a lobbyist for social reforms. After working to help pass labor laws through New York government, Perkins started a career in government, and eventually began a close working relationship and a somewhat wary friendship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was appointed the first female Cabinet member in United States history, serving as Secretary of Labor and paving the way for women to take on roles in government and eventually drafted the Social Security Act of 1935.

 

A first-hand look at major moments in American history

Perkins was witness to some pivotal moments in history—she was a firsthand witness to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York in 1911, which further empowered her to fight for workers’ rights. She also engaged in a romantic relationship with famed author Sinclair Lewis, and was referenced in a number of his works.

 

A rich personal life

Beyond her career and friendships with socialites, notable artists, and politicians, Perkins led a home life that was anything but dull. After an intense romance, she married Paul Wilson, and together they had one daughter. Paul suffered from severe mental health issues and was institutionalized, and it’s rumored (though never confirmed) that Perkins took up a romantic affair with her close female friend, Mary Rumsey.

 

Thoroughly Researched

Dray’s intense research leaves no stone unturned in her portrayal of this vibrant historical figure. The author was even in touch with Perkins’s living grandson, who helped her fill in the details of her heroine’s personal life. As Dray said “I reviewed the five-thousand-page transcript of her oral history, read her papers, poems, and family pictures. I scoured appointment books and historical newspapers where she made headlines. I even listened to recordings to capture her unique voice and had the privilege of interviewing people who knew her, including her grandson. All this so I could paint a vivid picture of this extraordinary woman whose programs transformed our nation.”

 

Featuring an extraordinary woman whose story may not be as well-known as others, BECOMING MADAM SECRETARY is perfect for fans of Kate Quinn, Marie Benedict, Kristin Hannah, and Renee Rosen – and it’s an excellent read for Women’s History Month in March.


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