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The Woman Behind The New Deal

989 words - 4 pages

The first half of Kirstin Downey's book, The Woman Behind the New Deal chronologically explores the Frances Perkins life up until her early years as the Secretary of Labor under President Roosevelt. She was not only a vital labor advocate but a woman's suffrage leader. Her up-bringing, education, influences, alliances, work history, and the changing world around her shaped her into an extraordinary person. She is an outstanding example of the “New Women” in the progressive era. She lived her life like a calculated chess player; practically every step that she took whether it be personal, professional, or in public appeared to be tactical.
First, in her private life she demonstrated her ...view middle of the document...

Secondly, Professionally she defied the standard roles of women living in her era. She advanced in leadership roles from the city to national level with her infallible networking skills. Her persistence to help people in need and too show men that she was equally as capable as men led to the establishment of many laws that protect United States citizens today. Thankfully she was committed to unionization, worker's safety, shorter hours, ending child labor, immigration, and social programs like Social Security. Perkins like many women's suffrage leaders spent considerable energy subtly changing the way that men regard women as professionals. In Perkins' case “she had to deal with judgement and criticism of the medium peers and the public” (146) for taking on work intended for men. During cabinet meetings with President she did not ask questions, and only spoke when she was asked to speak by the president. She was wise and kept her comments concise and short gain the respect of men in the cabinet. (2537) In a way she was essentially an ambassador for the women's capabilities. She knew that her success would threaten egos of men, and she was empathetic to them. It is inspiring to read the way she was able to disarm men in leadership roles by playing into ideas of acceptable roles for women. For example, “she studied how men think to be more successful in a man's world” (141). Once she realized that men were more likely to confide in a woman that reminded them of their mothers (875). It is brilliant that she changed her appearance to look more matronly.
Moreover, Perkins had a rare ability to compartmentalize and compose herself publicly, which allowed her to become a more successful “labor advocate.” This was an invaluable tool, since she was “scrutinized wherever she went because she was a woman” (2958). She took additional steps to make herself more acceptable in the public eye; for...

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