The Cabinet: The Last Leaf

Descended of New England Puritans, victor of many savage Albany battles involving labor-management relations, Frances Perkins was not about to bend before Washington's political winds. "Being a woman has only bothered me in climbing trees," was her one concession to critics who howled when Franklin Roosevelt appointed her Secretary of Labor in 1933—the first woman Cabinet member in U.S. history.

"The accusation that I am a woman is incontrovertible," she allowed at another point, shaking her trim tricorn hat like a panache at the antifeminists. William Green, doughty president of the A.F.L.,...

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