NPR's Best of 2009: The Woman Behind the New Deal

In NPR’s Best of 2009 round-up, Maureen Corrigan writes, “This was a major year for looking back to the Great Depression for guidance, as well as for a buck-up dose of that era’s shining-through, Shirley Temple spirit. Out of all of the ’30s-themed books I read this year, my pick for the best nonfiction book is Kirsten Downey’s biography of Frances Perkins, The Woman Behind the New Deal. Here’s how Franklin Roosevelt’s controversial choice for secretary of labor recalled the first meeting of FDR’s Cabinet in 1933:

‘I tried to have as much of a mask as possible. I wanted to give the impression of being a quiet, orderly woman who didn’t buzz-buzz all the time. … I knew that a lady interposing an idea into men’s conversation is very unwelcome. … You didn’t butt in with bright ideas.’

As Downey’s compelling biography reveals, Perkins’ strategy of reticence worked. She achieved many of her ‘bright ideas,’ like the minimum wage, work-hour limitations and the Social Security Act. Indeed, if Perkins had completely realized her vision, national health care would have long been an American reality.”

Author Kirstin Downey is currently making appearances to promote her book. Visit her website for more information.