Christine Stansell, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, has written a long, informative, and generally positive review of Kirstin Downey’s new biography of Frances Perkins in today’s Daily Beast.
Here’s an excerpt but you should read the whole review:
Normally talkative and articulate, Perkins put on a churchlady-like demeanor “I wanted to give the impression of being a quiet, orderly woman,” she explained without a trace of irony. The reality was, they were men, she was a woman, and so she doubled down. “I just proceeded on the theory that this was a gentleman’s conversation on the porch of a golf club. You didn’t butt in with bright ideas.”
Nonetheless, she clearly had a few “bright ideas.” How she got them through without butting in is a mystery which Downey doesn’t pursue. Her balancing act is all the more remarkable because while she was mollifying suspicious men, she was also turning the corrupt, dysfunctional Labor Department into a robust New Deal agency and whipping out work-relief programs and major pieces of legislation.