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March 15, 2024

Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts


She took on titans, battled generals, and changed the world as we know it…

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray
March 2024; Berkley; 978-0593437056
audio, ebook, print (528 pages); biographical fiction

I had heard about The New Deal and the Civilian Conversation Corp and other programs that started in Franklin Roosevelt's time as President but I have to admit that I had never heard or read anything about Frances Perkins.  She dedicated her life to helping other people and was determined to make a difference when she arrived in New York City at the turn of the century.  She got involved in politics and supported FDR and he nominated her to be the first female Secretary of Labor-  a post she held from 1933-1945.  She was a strong woman and it was amazing all of the progress she was able to make considering that she was looked down on since she was a woman.  

Frances arrived in New York City determined to help improvised women and children.   She had come to New York to write her thesis on child malnourishment in the tenements of Hell's Kitchen.  She worked on projects like child labor and the long hours that women had to work.  After witnessing the Triangle Shirt Factory fire, she worked on safety in the work place.  She met many wealthy women who were volunteering to help other people and one of the people she met was FDR - who she did not like.  But in 1929 when he was governor of New York, he appointed her to the role of state labor secretary and when he became President he appointed her as the first female cabinet member.  During FDR's administration, Frances became responsible for the formation of the CCC's and other programs that helped the poor.  She was also largely responsible for the plan to start Social Security, a program that is still being used to help the elderly today.   With her husband often in a mental hospital and her daughter needing attention, she often had to make a decision whether to be a mom and wife or to attend to the president and the needs of the government.  She may not have always made the right decisions where her family was concerned but she definitely made a difference in her quest to help the poor and make the work place safer for everyone.

As always with Stephanie Dray's books, the research was intensive and the story was well written. Frances Perkins was so well written that it was easy for the reader to feel like she was a friend.  We not only learned about her successes in her life but also learned about her problems and the times that she questioned what was important -- her family or the people of the United States.  Be sure to read the Author's notes at the end where she talks about her research.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction about strong women who made significant changes that affect us today, don't miss this chance to learn about Frances Perkins and the work she did to help the nation.



Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   


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