Long before Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd US president on March 4, 1933, the administrative and ideological attitudes of FDR and Frances Perkins had intersected, melded and seemingly became one.
Architect of the Civilian Conservation Corps Frances Perkins
The professional partnership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Frances Perkins was strengthened during Roosevelt’s 1929 – 1932 term as governor of New York. Recognizing Perkins understanding and grasp of complex government policies he appointed her Commissioner of New York State Industrial Commission. In this position Perkins supervised the health and safety of state workers; an appointment she managed with little difficulty. As a seasoned social worker, activist for public works, child labor, unemployment insurance, and workers’ rights advocate Perkins was able to tutor the then governor on the concept of “social insurance”.
First Woman Secretary of Labor
When FDR became President he selected “Miss Perkins” to be Secretary of Labor; the first woman ever appointed to a US cabinet position. Her tenure, as one of his closest and trusted advisers, would span FDR’s entire four term administration. A unique position which allowed her to observe, assist and analyze “the most complicated human being I ever knew.”
Theirs was a remarkable collaboration; one which empowered Perkins to frame and develop several of FDR’s New Deal programs and policies, among them the first and most successful, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
It was the fourth year of the Great Depression. The unemployment spiral continued downwards, millions were jobless. There was a feeling of hopelessness; especially among a young and untried generation. Something needed to be done . . . and quickly.
By the 5th day of his first term, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), 32nd US President was setting in motion what is now recognized as the “single greatest conservation program in American history”. The Civilian Conservation Corps – CCC . It would become the first and most successful of the New Deal work programs.
By the 1oth day FDR signed four memos with a simple directive – “coordinate the plans”. The memos were addressed to members of his cabinet. George H. Dern, Secretary of War, Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of Interior 1933-1946, Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture and Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor 1933-1945.
This historic memo gave the four cabinets members powerful authority and a daunting task . . . they were to investigate and draft legislation which would allow the immediately implementation the first of the New Deal work programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).