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Woman Behind The New Deal (2009)

Woman Behind the New Deal (2009)

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4.1 of 5 Votes: 1
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1299083625 (ISBN13: 9781299083622)
Anchor Books

About book Woman Behind The New Deal (2009)

FDR is a particularly despised president amongst frum Jews because he could have done more to save the Jews in the Holocaust. But even though that’s true, I always felt he had two big saving graces: 1) he still led America into World War II in order to defeat Hitler and 2) the New Deal. Now, I know there are many people today who think the New Deal was a terrible idea, arguing that it swelled the size and reach of government as well as the national debt. Personally, I think employing the unemployed in public works was a solution that gave people their dignity. It was both visionary and humane. So I didn’t know how to reconcile these two views of Roosevelt, except to assume that Eleanor was largely behind the New Deal. Well, I was right there was a feminine influence there, but it wasn’t Eleanor. It was the subject of this biography, Frances Perkins, Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor. Frances Perkins was raised in a conventional, upper crust Maine family that expected her to get married and live happily ever after, but an interest in finding solutions to poverty led her to social work in New York City. She worked with immigrants and even prostitutes, but upon witnessing the Triangle Fire, she was inspired to take on the issue that would define her life: safe and fair working conditions for labor. She worked her way up from New York government into FDR’s and then Truman’s cabinet and is responsible for the benefits we take for granted today: social security, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, and the 40-hour work week. She also tried passing national health insurance, but the AMA defeated her. Reading that, as well as the story of her impeachment (she was not convicted), proved to me in the midst of this government shut-down that politics has always been ugly. It’s no worse now than it’s ever been. Unfortunately, it’s no better either.I definitely preferred reading about Frances’ rise to prominence than the stormy politicking she faced once she got there, but as I said, it was a worthwhile lesson in the midst of this government shut-down. From a Jewish point of view, it was interesting to learn this tidbit of history: Ms. Perkins was an advocate for accepting more Jewish refugees into America in the 1930’s, but when Roosevelt, under the influence of Perkins’ rivals, changed jurisdiction over immigration from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice, Perkins lost the power to save more Jews. Chalk that up as one more reason to hate Roosevelt.Frances Perkins is someone every American should know about, and since this is a thorough biography by an author who clearly admires her, it’s a great place to start. It does get a bit boring at times, but mostly, it flows with human detail. I wish her old-fashioned style of liberalism would get back into fashion. Religious values informed her concern for the poor and downtrodden. The world needs more leaders like her today. My dad, born in 1927, knows who Frances Perkins was. I'm embarrassed to say that before reading this book, I did not. Among many other things, she was FDR's Secretary of Labor (the first female Cabinet member) and the chief architect of the New Deal. She was the principal force behind increased workplace safety, the 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, worker's compensation, unemployment compensation, laws prohibiting child labor, and Social Security. She fought for but failed to get national health insurance. During much of her tenure as Labor Secretary, immigration was under her jurisdiction, and she helped a substantial number of German Jews trying to reach the U.S.The author is at her best discussing Perkins's formative years, education, personality strengths, early career, family life, and friendships, including that with FDR himself. The writing is clear and straight-forward. This is not one of those super-long bios that the reader feels will never end. Nonetheless, some of the middle chapters drag in the blow-by-blow about the legislation and the negotiations leading up to it.One of the many interesting aspects of the book is the obvious parallel between the Great Depression and recent global financial woes, with the super-rich getting richer and the workers getting slammed in both instances. Likewise, while the U.S. may have made strides in preventing tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, it is impossible not to think about the lack of safety for workers in Bangladesh and other foreign countries.My dad's parents viewed FDR as a hero; before the New Deal, my grandfather, who worked for a railroad, had no guaranteed days off. Maybe my grandparents should've haled Perkins as their hero. All that she accomplished is almost inconceivable. And it is inconceivable that she has largely been forgotten.

Do You like book Woman Behind The New Deal (2009)?

A fascination and approachable biography by a very sympathetic author.

A good book for Democrats and those who lived through the depression.

Extremely timely, wish it was written better, but I am enjoying it.

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