Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

FRANCES PERKINS

( 1880-1965): social worker, secretary of labor

E. CLAIRE JERRY & JENNIFER E. CHRISTENSEN

Frances Perkins, secretary of labor from 1933 to 1945, was the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet and one of only two cabinet officials to serve for the duration of Franklin Roosevelt's long presidency. Although her gender raised major obstacles for her throughout her career in public service, she was recognized for her outstanding intellect, training, experience, and rhetorical skill. In 1935 Washington, D.C., radio stations voted her one of the nation's five best political speakers (M:364). In 1936 the French press recognized her as one of the most brilliant orators in the United States (WRC:1003). Presidelt Roosevelt aonsidered her "the smartest woman in public life" ( Time, March 6, 1933:16), but the comment that best captures her public image came from Hugh Johnson, head of the National Recovery Administration: "Frances Perkins is the best man in the cabinet" (RIK:204). This chapter surveys the rhetoric of Frances Perkins, examining her biography, the rhetorical context, her personal rhetorical principles, and, finally, her rhetoric itself.


BACKGROUND

Frances Perkins was born in 1880 into a family of progressives. She was strongly influenced by her father, who began to teach her Greek when she was 7 or 8. He insisted that she attend Worcester Massachusetts) Classical High School, the local college prep school, where, as gne of the few girls attending, she developed a reputation as an articulate debater, often taking positions she did not necessarily hold for the sake of shocking the opposition. Perkins went on to earn a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College, where she majored in chemistry. But it was an American history course that most shaped her career. In this course the students entered factories, surveyed working conditions, and were taught humanistic methods (M:45).

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Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Ti-Grace Atkinson 1
  • Emily Greene Balch 25
  • Clare Boothe Luce 40
  • Rachel Louise Carson 72
  • Margaret Chase Smith 90
  • Mary Daly 120
  • Jessie Daniel Ames 134
  • Andrea Dworkin 175
  • Geraldine Ann Ferraro 190
  • Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980), Member of Congress, Defender of Liberal Democratic Principles, Advocate for Women's Equity 207
  • Margaret Higgins Sanger 238
  • Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968), Advocate for the Blind, Socialist, and Feminist 254
  • Aimee Kennedy Semple Mcpherson 273
  • Catharine A. Mackinnon 287
  • Robin Evonne Morgan 306
  • Pauli Murray 319
  • Leonora O'Reilly 331
  • Frances Perkins 345
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman 359
  • Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 379
  • Patricia Scott Schroeder 395
  • Phyllis Stewart Schlafly 409
  • Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer 424
  • Alyce Faye Wattleton 436
  • Ann Willis Richards 452
  • Martha Wright Griffiths 465
  • Index 477
  • About the Contributors 489
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