November 19, 2016

Down East Notes

Sam Smith - Women interested in politics might consider moving to our town in Maine. We just got our second woman town council chair in a row and another Freeport woman has been chosen as speaker of the state house of representatives. Not bad for a town of 7,000, albeit one where 81% of registered voters cast a ballot in the last election.

But then women in Maine have always been a little special. For example, there was FDR's labor secretary Frances Perkins, perhaps the most underrated woman of the 20th century. When President-elect Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve in his cabinet, she outlined for him a set of policy priorities she would pursue: a 40-hour work week; a minimum wage; unemployment compensation; worker’s compensation; abolition of child labor; direct federal aid to the states for unemployment relief; Social Security; a revitalized federal employment service; and universal health insurance. She made it clear to Roosevelt that his agreement with these priorities was a condition of her joining his cabinet. Roosevelt said he endorsed them all, and Frances Perkins became the first woman in the nation to serve in a Presidential cabinet.

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