March 4, 1933.
In the one-hundred-forty-three years since George Washington had become president, a female had never sat as a presidential cabinet member. However, on March 4, 1933, Francis Perkins became the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet. On that day, she was sworn in as secretary of labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She would remain in that position for twelve years.
Perkins’s appointment in Roosevelt’s cabinet was a monumental moment for women everywhere. She was even featured on the cover of Time Magazine in August of the same year.
As Secretary of Labor, Perkins helped Roosevelt form a plan to improve the United States economy so that the country could start healing from the Great Depression. She was dedicated to many aspects of labor, including women’s issues, child labor, and safety. She helped develop new deal legislation, working to create the Civil Conservation Corps and minimum wage laws. It can be argued that Perkins’s most crucial effort as Secretary of Labor was when she helped design the Social Security Act of 1935. This act created the social security program and developed insurance against unemployment.
Perkins’s tenure as a Secretary of Labor ended when President Roosevelt died, and Harry Truman took his place. Truman then replaced the entire Roosevelt cabinet. However, President Truman asked Perkins to serve on the United States civil service commission, a role she would hold until 1952.