Rose Lopez on Frances Perkins

“I came to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain, common workingmen.”

If you are grateful for Social Security, the minimum wage and Unemployment Insurance, thank the remarkable FRANCES PERKINS. As a young woman, she witnessed the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which set her on a mission for labor rights she would pursue her entire life. After working with Jane Addams in the Settlement Houses in Chicago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tapped Frances to be his Secretary of Labor. She agreed only after he accepted her demands to prioritize rights for workers, including child labor laws, safe working conditions and the 40-hour work week — becoming the first woman ever in the US presidential cabinet. Educator ROSE LOPEZ tells us the story of Frances Perkins and her long-lasting accomplishments for working people. Our storytellers share these astonishing women with us conversationally and unscripted; we fact-check afterwards and note any major discrepancies for accuracy.


Rose Lopez

Rose was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she also has raised two children, Rajan 31 and Maren 19. She attended San Francisco State where she earned a Bachelor Degree in French and later completed a Masters Degree in French Literature at San Jose State. After completing her Masters in the US she moved to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne and earned a second Master’s Degree, this time in American Culture. In 1999 she joined the faculty at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose where she has served as lead French Instructor, Community Service Coordinator and peer Educational Technology Instructor. During her time at Mitty she has also had fellowships at Microsoft where she was a PowerPoint Test Engineer and Silicon Valley Bank where she facilitated online training for employees. Rose is a recognized leader in educational technology and has been a presenter at the Exam Soft Educational Assessment Conference in Denver and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She joined the Board of Look What She Did! in 2017 where she is currently an Educational Advisor and secretary on the board.

Featured Woman

Frances Perkins

Frances (nee Fannie) C. Perkins (1880 – 1965) changed her name to Frances when she started to work as she didn’t like the name calling. She also wore hats to look older and more serious. Armed with a degree in chemistry and physics, Frances taught and volunteered in Settlement Houses with Jane Addams in Chicago. When she witnessed first-hand the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire the tragedy set Frances Perkins on a life-long course working for Labor Rights. Tapped by FDR to be the first woman cabinet minister and the first woman Secretary of Labor, Frances only agreed if he would pursue her main issues: Social Security, an 8-hour work day, child-labor laws, work-place safety, and unemployment insurance. She served as Secretary of Labor for his entire twelve-year term. After his death, Frances was appointed US Civil Service Commissioner under President Truman. Later she taught Labor Relations at Cornell and the University of Illinois. In 1932 Frances said, “I came to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain, common workingmen.” Later in life her efforts were to secure universal healthcare.