Becoming Madam Secretary

Berkley. Mar. 2024. 528p. ISBN 9780593437056. $29. F
Frances Perkins, born to well-off parents, arrives at the turn of the 20th century in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood with a fellowship to investigate childhood malnutrition. Enraged at the deplorable living and working conditions she encounters, she is soon ensconced with other powerful women, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who are equally socially conscious. Shortly after she witnesses women falling to their deaths during the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, Frances is recommended by former president Theodore Roosevelt to a committee on safety in New York State seeking to prevent future workplace tragedies. As she begins to find success in her professional life, she is romantically pursued by fellow reformer Paul Wilson. They marry and face personal tragedies as Frances continues to work for the betterment of those who have less. She fights for workers’ rights, meets and becomes enthralled with a young lawyer named Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and forms a partnership with him that will carry them all the way to the White House.
VERDICT Dray (The Women of Chateau Lafayette) introduces readers to this real-life trailblazing woman who is the mother of Social Security and became the first woman appointed to a United States presidential cabinet. A fictionalized portrayal of a phenomenal woman who has largely been lost to history.
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