The Cabinet: The Last Leaf

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Frances Perkins traced her ancestry to prerevolutionary Massachusetts, and from her birth, in 1882, was schooled in the genteel manner of the New England Brahmin, graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1902. She then served as a social worker for the Episcopal Church, as a high school teacher and finally as a colleague of Jane Addams at Hull House in the slums of Chicago. In 1910, she became executive secretary of the Consumers League of New York, concentrating on the improvement of working conditions for women and children.

In 1911, she ran from a Greenwich Village tea party to witness the grisly Triangle Shirtwaist fire, which killed 146 working women. She redoubled her efforts for the league and successfully pushed factory reforms in New York state, pulling working hours for women down to a then unprecedented maximum of 54 hours a week. In 1919, Governor Al Smith appointed her to the state's Industrial Commission and warned Roosevelt in 1929, "You'd better not let her get away from you."

Part of the Fabric. In 1913, she married Paul Caldwell Wilson, who died in 1952, a financial statistician and adviser to the mayor of New York. She remained "Miss Perkins" in professional life.

Shortly after Roosevelt's death. Miss Perkins' resignation was accepted by President Truman, but she remained in Government for another seven years as a civil-service commissioner. The day Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated she resigned for good, the "last leaf," she said cheerfully, on the New Deal tree. Last week, her accomplishments part of the fabric of American social reform. Frances Perkins died in Manhattan at 83, following a stroke.

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