Frances Perkins: First Woman Cabinet member

80 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt notified the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1933, that he had nominated Frances Perkins of New York to be Secretary of Labor.  A lifelong labor reformer, she rose to prominence following the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. She was confirmed as Secretary of Labor and became the first woman appointed to a Cabinet position. She was the longest serving Labor secretary, serving for 12 years between 1933 and 1945. She was also the first woman to enter the Presidential Line of Succession.

Keep reading at Prologue: A Factory Fire and Frances Perkins


Suffrage and suffering at the “Women’s Suffrage Parade” in Washington DC, March 3, 1913: 

One hundred years ago on March 3, supporters of woman suffrage marched through Washington, DC. Held the day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration, the parade was preceded by a series of “suffrage hikes” in New York and elsewhere intended to bring attention to the lack of voting rights for women.  However, the marchers were met by crowds of unruly men. The police did nothing, and the treatment of the women by the crowds caused an outcry.

The women testified about their experiences—some noted the lack of police or their indifference and applauded the Boy Scouts for being more effective than the police. Others described drunken men along the parade route hooting and jeering at them, blocking their path, and making insulting remarks (one young girl was called a “Georgia Peach”—an indignity at the time).

A resolution from the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage in King’s County noted that the women in the parade, “many of whom were among the finest intellectual leaders of their sex, were … subject to insult, ribaldry, and personal abuse.”

The day after the parade, the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the Committee on the District of Columbia to investigate the handling of the incident by the police.

This photograph of the parade comes from that investigation:

“Exhibit 36, View of the Woman Suffrage Parade from the Willard Hotel, Washington DC, from the Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee of the District of Columbia of the United States Senate, pursuant to S. Res 499, March 4, 1913, 63rd Congress (Y4.D63/2:W84); RG 287, National Archives”

Read the full story of the parade and the hearing at Prologue: Pieces of History » Suffrage and suffering at the 1913 March

As 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of this watershed event, be sure to watch for more #Suffrage13 features from the National Archives, including:

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and this March also marks the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington DC. Be sure to check out one of the latest boards on Pinterest, “A National Policy of Nagging,” documenting some of the struggles of early suffragists:

A National Policy of Nagging

Suffragists faced a difficult road in their march towards equality. Even women opposed giving women the right to vote. One letter from Alice H. Wadsworth, President of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, calls it “an endorsement of nagging as a national policy.” March 3 marks 100 years since suffragists marched on Washington. In honor of this event, the 19th Amendment will be on display from March 1 to March 8, 2013.

(Ed. note: corrected 19th Amendment exhibit end date to March 8.)