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.)

Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010) was an American administrator, educator, and social activist. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. #whm2013

“She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart, until she became a martyr.” (The Life of Marie-Antoinette by M. de la Rocheterie, 1893)

“I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.” ~Marie Antoinette #whm2013

“I was ecstatic when I realized that this unidentified black woman standing proudly and confidently in a 19th-century dress was Edmonia Lewis since so few images of her exist,” said Copeland. “In 2002, the Walters acquired Edmonia Lewis’ 1868 bust of Dr. Diocletian Lewis (no relation) through a generous grant by Baltimore Image & Photo Credit
Fratelli D’Alessandri, Rome, Carte-de-viste of Edmonia Lewis, ca. 1874-76, Albumen silver, print mounted on card stock, 10.2 x 6.3 cm

Photograph of 19th-Century African American Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Discovered
Mary Edmonia Lewis (1844–1907), the first 19th-century African American sculptor to receive international recognition.

Lewis was born in the village of Greenbush, near Albany, New York. Her father was Haitian of African descent, and her mother was partly Native American, of the Chippewa tribe, and partly African American. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio and in 1863 moved to Boston, where she received instruction from the sculptor Edward Brackett. In 1866, she left the United States for Rome, settling among other American expatriate artists saying, “The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor”. She adopted the prevailing neoclassical style of sculpture, but softened it with a degree of naturalism.

She traveled to the United States from Europe several times, which was an arduous task for a woman at this time. Copeland’s research shows that Lewis had two other cdvs taken by Boston photographers, perhaps prior to the Rocher photographs taken in Chicago. She also discovered a photocopy of a cdv in the archives of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore. It is unknown why Lewis’ carte de visites were found in Baltimore. It is possible that she brought the “calling cards” with her to Baltimore in 1883 when she installed and unveiled the bas-relief, Adoration of the Magi for the “colored” Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin on Baltimore’s Orchard Street. #whm2013

March is Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.“ Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as "Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.“ Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” #WHM2013 #Women'sHistoryMonth