Thanks to Frances Perkins – Fighter for Workers’ Rights
Illustrator: Kristy Caldwell
Peachtree Publishing Company
Middle Grade Level
Born in the late 19th Century to parents who believed a girl should receive an education, her career culminated in being named the first woman to a cabinet position in the United States, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor.
Ask a random sample of three adults who Frances Perkins is, and I doubt that two of them will be able to tell you–perhaps none of them will. And that, is a shame. Notice how I wrote adults and not Americans? Well, that was on purpose. Her legacy influenced more than just workers in the United States. Born in the late 19th Century to parents who believed a girl should receive an education, her career culminated in being named the first woman to a cabinet position in the United States, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor.
Thanks to Frances Perkins – Fighter for Workers’ Rights, provides a brief overview of a life of activism and service that was influenced by perhaps the greatest tragedy in labor’s history: The Triangle Waist Company Fire, where 146 people, mostly teenage girls lost their lives to a fire because they were locked-in while working. Perkins witnessed the event from the street level and was so moved that she went to work joining committees and the subsequent battle to improve worker safety and conditions. The book gives a bird’s-eye-view of Perkins’ lobbying efforts to change the laws of New York, where the fire had occurred, and later how she influenced changes in the United States. Perhaps most surprising to some, it credits Perkins with a little known fact about the development of Social Security–namely, how it was her idea, provided to Roosevelt.
The book’s illustrations have a soft-unrushed look to them. The colors are somewhat muted, but lovely, and alive. The color palette was apparently given great thought as the colors are not only evocative of the period, but also are seamless in how they woven together (every pun intended). Even the suits and dresses don’t clash! Although not sepia-toned, the pages have a soft archival quality to them that gives the book a historical feel.
The overall look of the book works well with and enhances the soft-unrushed prose. Although most Middle Grade biographies have a tendency towards the static, this one has more of a narrative feel. By integrating quotations from both Perkins and her contemporaries, be it in snippets, Hopkinson has broken up the monotony of “and then this happened” and injected the text with life. Hopkinson has also managed to capture Perkins’ spirit rather well, ensuring that the reader understands why Perkins wanted to make a better life for workers even though she was never a part of that affected class.
Thanks to Frances Perkins – Fighter for Workers’ Rights paints the portrait of a strong woman doing remarkable things and is a wonderful addition to any library.
My thanks to Peachtree Publishing for providing an Advance Copy of this book prior to its publication. The views expressed herein are my own.
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