This International Women’s Day, here’s a deep dive into an unsung hero of workers’ rights

On Tuesday, March 8, we can center and honor women on International Women’s Day 2022. Mind you, the news, in general, is bleak. Russia is invading Ukraine, trans youth are fearing for their safety across the U.S., and women are subjected to gender-based violence every single day. Trans women continue to face high rates of physical and sexual violence, as well as homelessness and poverty. Women of color get paid less than white women, and especially less than white men. Abortion rights feel precarious depending on where you live—or really, in general.

In short: Celebrating women is excellent and needed. It’s also excellent and necessary to keep fighting on behalf of actual equality and anti-discrimination. If you’re feeling really, really tired from keeping up the good fight, however, I invite you to dig into some surprising, inspiring history. For me, this looked like doing a delightful deep dive into an influential woman whose history I was barely familiar with. She was the first woman—and apparently, first queer woman—to serve as a Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, and was essentially the backbone of our Social Security system as we know it. 

Her name? Frances Perkins.

Frances Perkins served as the secretary of labor for Franklin D. Roosevelt for 12 years, starting in 1933. She’d known Roosevelt previously, as she served as labor chief for New York state in the time Roosevelt served as governor, as reported by The Washington Post. Perkins, who was in her early fifties at the time, became not only the first woman to serve in the presidential Cabinet, but was a driving force behind Roosevelt’s famed New Deal.

The New Deal included structural efforts to help people during the Great Depression. For Perkins at the time—and in years to come—this meant establishing a minimum wage, ending child labor, expanding insurance for older folks, establishing unemployment compensation, and setting a 40-hour workweek. She even wanted universal health insurance.

Born in Massachusetts to a well-off, Republican family, Perkins attended Mount Holyoke for college. By sheer coincidence, Perkins was in New York for work during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, where nearly 150 workers—mostly young women—died. Clearly, workers' rights were not just a question of theory for her, but actual daily life. 

In fact, Perkins later referred to the tragedy as “the day the New Deal was born.” 

If you’re assuming Perkins got a lot of flak, you’d be right. She faced an incredible amount of criticism based on her appearance—including reporting on her height and weight, for example—and snide remarks even from her peers in government in reference to her marriageability. Roosevelt was an ally to Perkins until his death in 1945, though she met a fair deal of criticism—including threats of impeachment—on her own, and in spite of the trusted relationship she had with the president.

As reported by NPR, Perkins rarely wore makeup and made an intentional effort to dress plainly and in dark suits in an attempt to be taken seriously by her male colleagues; she rationalized that if she reminded men of their mothers, she’d be accepted by men at work.

After Roosevelt’s death, Perkins wrote a book and went on to teach at various colleges, including Cornell University. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she taught about labor and industries. 

Though Perkins wasn’t publicly out as queer at the time and married Paul Caldwell Wilson, a man who lived with mental health issues and was in and out of treatment, she actually lived with Mary Harriman Rumsey (who founded the publication we now know as Newsweek) until Rumsey’s death following a riding accident. She later lived with New York Rep. Caroline O’Day in Washington, D.C. That home is actually now a National Historic Landmark.

The official website dedicated to her life’s work and history leaves out these relationships, which continues to strike me as I write this piece. Truly, it is sad reading so many sources that erase or otherwise omit her queerness. We can’t rightly say how she would have identified with today’s terms, of course, but total erasure is, if nothing else, absolutely inaccurate. 

This International Women’s Day—and every day—learn, honor, and share about women’s full, rich, complex lives, and not just what’s readily accepted or understood. 

Here is some brief video coverage about Perkins, if you’re interested. 

What women in U.S. history would you love to see highlighted more in mainstream media or school classes? If you’d like to share in the comments below, I’d love to read!

Marco Rubio attempts to attack American Federation of Teachers and is demolished on Twitter

After toeing the Republican line that COVID-19 wasn’t a big deal, questioning mask mandates, promoting the false narrative that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to the American public, and questioning stay-at-home orders, Florida coward Marco Rubio stepped up in front of everyone else—teachers, first responders, and the elderly—to grab a vaccine for himself. Rubio is recently remembered for saying an impeachment trial for a president who helped create, fester, and enact an attempted coup d’etat on the United States is “stupid.” He’s also seemingly only been able to muster up the work ethic of a toddler during nap time, trying and failing to attack real legislator, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

On Wednesday, probably unable to read clearly from underneath the boots he’s been licking for the last four years, and unable to find his Bible Quote of the Day calendar, Rubio tried to attack public school teachers, and more specifically the “National Teachers Union” on Twitter. Rubio wrote, “National teachers’ union (not teachers) are saying they won’t go back to work until 2022. We should not send a single taxpayer dollar in Covid funds to schools that aren’t going to reopen.” Yup. Guy has very little to say about an insurrection from within his own political party, but he’s got serious grandstanding to do when it comes to promoting bad public health safety and our children.

It’s hard to know exactly what Rubio was talking about; perhaps he was referring to the impasse that the Chicago Teachers Union and the city has come to over COVID-19 resources and the safeguards being presented to teachers for reopening schools. Maybe he’s talking about the American Federation of Teachers? Not sure. Marco needs to go back to school. Badly. In the meantime, the internet learned him a little.

First, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten stepped in, to point out that Marco Rubio is a lying sack of shit.

Marco Rubio is lying. Our union has been talking about reopening since April, in fact I published an OpEd on it this week. The fact reopening safely costs money. Trying to withhold money from schools only slows down reopening. Stop lying Senator. https://t.co/PZnU7xxXGU

— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) January 27, 2021

Daily Kos’ own Mark Sumner called Rubio out as well.

Marco Rubio continuing the trend of using the Big Lie to spread hate and divisiveness. Tell me, Senator, is there an appropriate Bible verse for that?

— Mark Sumner (@Devilstower) January 27, 2021

Then a simple statement of facts.

You do realize that remote and hybrid learning require infrastructure, implementation costs, curriculum costs & personnel, right? Instead of threatening to make education MORE difficult, maybe you should listen to what educators say they need to meet the needs of their students.

— doesnotexist (@BrianFiddle) January 27, 2021

Those are big ideas for Rubio. This might be more his speed.

That's smart: They don't have the resources to get open, so the natural thing to do is: Cut their resources more. Thinking like this is proof of why kids need to be (safely) back in school. We've turned out too many stupid people already.

— Virgil Simpson (@HorseyDC) January 27, 2021

Maybe this approach will be easier for him to understand.

I’m of the opinion that we don’t pay legislators until they start focusing on Americans instead of trying to tear each other apart based on party politics.

— Elysabeth Britt (@ElysabethBritt) January 27, 2021

Maybe we can appeal to his Santa Claus-level understanding of Christianity and Catholicism?

does your jesus tell you to lie

— Atrios 🟨🟥 (@Atrios) January 27, 2021

But let’s be clear what is going on here.

Shame the National Teachers' Union dissolved the National Security Council's Pandemic Response Team in 2017 and then ignored their federal intelligence regarding an impending pandemic and then got on air to tell us 15 cases were going to zero and then told us to shoot up bleach.

— Gen X Army Brat (@GenXArmyBrat) January 27, 2021

The depths of Marco Rubio’s crapitude are just staggering.

Trump Gets Bad News As Screen Actors Guild Finds ‘Probable Cause’ To Expel Him

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which is the actor’s union, has announced that it has found “probable cause” that Donald Trump has “violated the union’s Constitution.” The former president has been a member of the union for over thirty years.

Trump Gets Bad News From SAG-Aftra

This matter is set to be heard by the union’s Disciplinary Committee, and if found guilty, Trump will be reprimanded in some way. He could be censured, fined, suspended, or even expelled from the actor’s union, according to Deadline.

The report cites Article XIV of the union’s Constitution, which states that members could be expelled for “engaging in actions antagonistic to the interests or integrity of the union.”

The complaint against Trump is in relation to the Capitol riots earlier this month, claiming that the ex-president supported “a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.”

Related: Katie Couric Asks How We’ll ‘Deprogram People Who Signed Up For The Cult Of Trump?’

Union President Speaks Out

“Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred — democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “There’s a straight line from his wanton disregard for the truth to the attacks on journalists perpetrated by his followers.”

The union’s national executive director David White spoke out about this situation as well.

“Our most important role as a union is the protection of our members,” he said. “The unfortunate truth is, this individual’s words and actions over the past four years have presented actual harm to our broadcast journalist members.”

“The board’s resolution addresses this effort to undermine freedom of the press and reaffirms the principles on which our democratic society rests, and which we must all work to protect and preserve,” White continued.

Read Next: Rose McGowan Blasts Trump Impeachment As ‘Cult Propaganda…Mass Distraction’ – Elites Ignoring ‘Country’s Starving, Sick, And Poor’

The union sent a letter to Trump this week to let him know about the charges that have been made against him. A vote of two-thirds of the SAG-AFTRA board is needed to expel Trump.

Given how radically liberal and hateful towards Trump Hollywood has become, it would be no surprise if the union does indeed end up expelling him.

This piece was written by James Samson on January 21, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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