The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Posts Tagged ‘Adam Cohen’

Panel Discussion from Jan. 14: “The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America”

In Biography, Events, Legislation on February 3, 2010 at 9:30 am
Panel 1: The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America

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The 1st panel from our January 14th event in New York City, “The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America”

Moderator: Dr. Christopher Breiseth, former president of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and current member of the Advisory Committee of the Frances Perkins Center

Panelists: Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal and board member at the Frances Perkins Center; Adam Cohen of the New York Times and author of Nothing to Fear; and Larry DeWitt, public historian at the Social Security Administration and principal editor of Social Security: A Documentary History.


More on “Nothing to Fear”

In Biography on January 13, 2009 at 8:04 pm

It’s great to see Adam Cohen’s new book, Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, getting so much notice. Many books have been written about FDR’s first hundred days but most of them, while quoting Frances Perkins extensively (she wrote a book called The Roosevelt I Knew, now out of print), give her little credit. Even Jonathan Alter’s book, The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, slights Perkins’s contribution.

Cohen sets up the internal conflict within FDR’s administration–the fiscally conservative, union-hating Douglas on one side and the social justice crusader Frances Perkins on the other–and shows how the crusader won, luckily for all of us. Where would we be today without Social Security, unemployment insurance, workplace safety laws, and a host of other safety net features?

Cohen has been getting lots of press recently. Here are some places to read or hear more: Amy Goodman’s blog, “Nothing to Fear but No Health Care,” and his appearance on her show, Democracy Now.  Salon had an interview with him today: “What Can Obama Learn from FDR’s First Hundred Days?” in which Cohen said:

One more thing, which is one of the main points of my book, is the degree to which — although FDR was a brilliant communicator and a brilliant politician and an inspiring leader — so much of the substance of the hundred days, the policies that emerged, came from his inner circle, from the people around him and people like Harry Hopkins, Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace, who I think have not been given the historical credit that they’re due.

“Nothing to Fear” — New book highlights Perkins’s role

In Biography on January 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Adam Cohen’s new book, Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, has been picking up great reviews. To read excerpts of the reviews, visit the book’s web page at Penguin Publishing.

The book shows the drama of the conflict among FDR’s advisors between fiscally conservative states’ rights advocates and the advisors pushing for social reforms. In this conflict, Cohen states — perhaps for the first time in print so categorically — that Frances Perkins was the victor.

Here’s a quote pointing out this viewpoint from Esquire Magazine’s review of the book:

Cohen focuses on a remarkable group of social reformers — a mystical Iowa editor, a union-hating son of an Arizona mining dynasty, assorted Ivy League eggheads — who stared down the conservative naysayers to execute these laws, but the standout is Frances Perkins. Before she became Roosevelt’s secretary of labor, she lived in Hell’s Kitchen settlement houses, where she saw women and children working 16-hour days in sweatshops and witnessed the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire. To her, we owe the fire escape, the eight-hour day, the five-day week, and Social Security — liberal innovations that helped save capitalism from itself, the last time liberals had to save it.

Author Adam Cohen himself touts Perkins’s influence in a short bio piece in the January/February issue of Harvard Magazine, “Brief life of an ardent New Dealer.” Here’s a quote:

Her role in the famous first 100 days has been underappreciated. She was the administration’s strongest advocate for a federal relief program to help people who were, literally, on the brink of starvation. Roosevelt charged her with finding a plan, and she brought him what became the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the first federal welfare program. But her greatest achievement was persuading Roosevelt to support large-scale public works. He was skeptical, but Perkins and several progressive senators convinced him such a program was necessary to provide work for the jobless and stimulate the economy. Before the Hundred Days ended, Roosevelt pushed a $3.3-billion program through Congress—as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act—that would evolve into larger efforts, notably the Works Progress Administration.