Although not a lawyer, Frances Perkins is a most deserving “Legend” in the area of Workers’ Compensation and workers’ rights.
On March 25, 1911, Frances Perkins was having tea with friends in New York City’s Washington Square when the group heard fire engines. Running to the scene of the fire, Frances Perkins witnessed in horror as 47 workers – mostly young women – jumped from the eighth and ninth floors of the building to their deaths on the street below. In all, 146 died as flames engulfed the upper three stores of the building. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was, she later proclaimed, “the day the New Deal was born.” In response to the fire, a citizen’s Committee on Safety was established to recommend practices to prevent a further tragedy in the city’s factories.
In February 1933, President-elect Roosevelt asked Frances Perkins to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of Labor. She outlined for him a set of policy priorities she would pursue: a 40-hour work week; a minimum wage; unemployment compensation; worker’s compensation; abolition of child labor; direct federal aid to the states for unemployment relief; Social Security; a revitalized federal employment service; and universal health insurance. She made it clear to Roosevelt that his agreement with these priorities was a condition of her joining his cabinet. Roosevelt said he endorsed them all, and Frances Perkins became the first woman in the nation to serve in a Presidential cabinet.
Frances Perkins was the principal architect of the New Deal, credited with formulating policies to shore up the national economy following the nation’s most serious economic crisis and helping to create the modern middle class. She was in every respect a self-made woman who rose from humble New England origins to become America’s leading advocate for industrial safety and workers’ rights.
Therefore, the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers is proud to name Frances Perkins as a Legend in the field of Worker’ Compensation.
(excerpted from Her Life: The Woman Behind The New Deal)