Monday, December 6, 2010

My Mom Reviews - "The Woman Behind The New Deal" by Kirstin Downey

Here is another review from my mother, the voracious reader. This one looks amazing.

The Woman Behind The New Deal By Kristin Downey
Reviewed by Penny Davies

When our book group selected, Kirstin Downey's "The Woman Behind the New Deal...The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins," I was less than delighted. The quality paperback was 398 pages long, with pages and pages of bibliography and notes in the back. It appeared to be a gargantuan tome to a woman unknown to most of us. I had a vague idea of the reputation of Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, during FDR 's administration, but I really didn't know that she was also responsible for Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Minimum Wage, the 40 hour week, etc. etc. This book tells the history of those times, through the life of Ms.Perkins. She was smart, intuitive, and knew how to get her way with FDR. She accomplished things that would be
impossible to legislate today.

It was an historic time between 1929 and 1949. With the depression underway, millions were out of work, and Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member, used her smarts to establish the New Deal. She started off as a social worker, married a man who was bipolar and lived in institutions for practically her entire married life. Her only daughter had serious psychological problems too. She had a close relationship with FDR, who she pushed and pulled to get her way. She always dressed in dowdy black in order to make the men in power picture her as "motherly". Because she was a woman, she was badgered, mistrusted, and generally resented by the men in Washington. But that didn't seem to bother her...she attained most of the legislation on her "list", (except for Universal Health Care). She cared about the downtrodden, the poor, the underpaid worker, immigrants, the unemployed, seniors, children... She cared at a time in our history when something tangible could actually be done to improve their lives.

This is an extremely fascinating picture of a determined, intelligent woman whose story is practically unknown. Her private life was a shambles, but she did so much for this country. We owe her for paving the way for subsequent women in government. She was loyal to President Roosevelt and worked with him and Harry Truman for twelve tumultuous years. This is definitely a good read, an excellent biography about an amazing woman. Frances Perkins, a remarkable life.

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