In the UPI.com almanac today, among the birthdays it mentions is: “Frances Perkins, the first woman U.S. Cabinet member (secretary of Labor), in 1882.”
Whoops. She was born in 1880.
UPI isn’t the only source to get this information wrong. So, why the confusion?
When Frances became secretary of Labor, she lopped two years off her age. Her boss, President Roosevelt, was born in 1882. Frances evidently felt that it would look better if she were the same age as he, instead of two years older.
Frances knew well the power of “reinventing” personal details: as a young woman, she had changed her name from Fannie Coralee Perkins to the more serious “Frances.” And, although she was described in her twenties as a stylish, dimpled young woman, by the time she was lobbying the New York Assembly on social justice legislation, she had adopted a matronly look.
Frances had important causes to serve, and she was willing to alter herself in service to those causes.