The genius of Social Security
Frances Perkins knew how difficult life could be. As a settlement-house worker in Chicago, a church worker in Philadelphia and a factory investigator in New York City, she had learned why social legislation was needed and what it took to get it passed.
When Perkins became secretary of labor in 1933, unemployment approached 30 percent. Facing the most demanding job of her life, she made arrangements for regular rest and replenishment--as she believed all people should be permitted and encouraged to do. On the advice of her pastor, Perkins spent one day a month in silent retreat at the Maryland convent of All Saints Sisters of the Poor, one of the oldest religious orders in the Episcopal Church. She continued the practice throughout her 12 years in Franklin D. Roosevelt's cabinet, where she was the principal advocate and lead architect of the Social Security Act, designed to make a secure retirement possible for nearly all Americans.
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