Transcribe your podcast

A ravenous pandemic, a ruinous recession, protest, riots, racial strife, police brutality and yes, Donald Trump America in 2020 feels like Apocalypse Now. Again, I'm John Heilemann and in hell and high water.


I'll explore this moment in a series of raw and real conversations with the people who shape our culture. Hell and High Water is a podcast from the recount.


Listen to Hell and High Water on the Heart radio app, Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.


Hey, everybody. I don't know if you've heard, but we have a book coming out finally, finally, after all these years, it's great. It's fun. You're going to love it. It's called stuff you should know. Colen an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things. Yep. And it's twenty 26 jam packed chapters that we wrote with another guy named Nils Parker, who's amazing and has illustrated amazingly by our illustrator, Carly Manado. And it's just an all around joy to pick up and read, even though we haven't physically held in our hands yet.


It's like we have Chuck in our dreams so far.


I can't wait to actually see and hold this thing and smell it and so should you. So preorder now it means a lot to us. The support is a very big deal. So preorder anywhere. Books are sold. Welcome to Step, you should know a production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles W. Chuck Bryant, and this is stuff you should know, the amazing unsung woman, Ed.


. Volume two, at least not more than two. What number would you say then? I don't know.


But I tell you what, if you want to take a vote on maybe one of the most under song, while at the same time being most influential Americans to ever live Neil Diamond, you know, he was very song.


I know I'm not a big fan.


Anyway, you would be hard pressed to overlook Miss Perkins. Yeah, Miss Frances Perkins totally agree. I had never heard her name before, had never even known she existed. But yeah, the more you dig into, the more you was like it was almost a crime that this woman was virtually written out of the history books. Yeah.


And if you are one of those people who was unfortunate to not be able to work right now during quarantine and the effects of covid-19, and you are not lucky enough, but, you know, deservedly enough receiving unemployment insurance. You can thank Frances Perkins for that. That's right. And every single person who's getting a check as measly as they've gotten lately, is getting one because of this system that Frances Perkins set up. And was really, I think worth noting, too, is this is this is exactly the kind of situation that she got this past for that she helped design this for totally because there's a quote.


I can't remember exactly where the quote was. But to to paraphrase it, it's basically like we need to we need to always keep our eye on the long term and plan for the worst case scenario. While, yes, there's a lot of immediate needs that we need, but there's always going to be something that comes down the road. And if we have a plan for it, we're way better off. Just imagine how disastrous it would be on top of the current disaster if there wasn't such a thing as unemployment insurance.


And this is how we found out that we really kind of need it.


Yeah, it would be Dark Ages stuff in this country.


Yeah. So if you have gotten your unemployment insurance check and it has helped you thank Frances Perkins somehow. Yeah.


And we want to thank HowStuffWorks. That's where part of this research came from and some other places. But notably, I don't want to shout this out because this is a library intern at the FDR Library who wrote a paper called Honoring the Achievements of FDR. Secretary of Labor Jessica Breitman. Hmm.


This is really good stuff. And she's a library intern and we want to shut her up. Yeah, she did great.


Or she was at the time. I imagine she's moved on from that internship after after she turned that essay in. But your paper, she did.


So Frances Perkins was born Fanny Corelli Perkins in Boston in 1880, but her relatives and her ancestors came from Maine. And it's kind of funny here at the beginning of this HowStuffWorks thing, it says she's so understanding that even residents of her hometown of Damariscotta, Maine, didn't seem familiar with her legacy. I think that says more about Maine.


All right. They're like, we don't need to help her put on airs.


Well, then, just like, you know, I don't ask, don't tell. I was doing whatever she lived here a great good for her.


I want to say also, before the residents of New Castle bust a vein in their forehead, she's also cited as a native of Newcastle, Maine.


They're right across the Damariscotta River from one another.


I think she's from Newcastle.


So is this like Adidas Puma thing? Maybe. Maybe.


Except imagine if neither town knew what shoes were, it would be a pretty accurate analogy. Oh, boy, I love the moaners.


So she yeah, she was she came from really like dyed in the wool Yankees stock. Her family came over I think in the eighties her she had like her family, had built an outpost during the French Indian war. Her grandmother, who had more of an influence on her, she said, than anybody had a cousin who she was close to, who founded Howard University and fought for the rights of newly freed African-Americans. She came from like a long line of people who, like, cared about other people.


And yet, surprisingly, her parents were very conservative. They were in favor of, you know, helping the poor, but not mingling with them, helping them like helping them by, like, you know, sending some money or something like that. OK, and they produced the child, Fanny Francis. She changed her name, I think, and I don't know, her 20s or 30s.


She she was the opposite way. She was like, no, like like people or people. And they all deserve help. And there's a lot of injustice in this world. And I want to change it myself. And she's one of those people who actually did enact tremendous change for all the right reasons. Yeah.


She said people are people, so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully?


Which one was that? The. Depeche Mode. I can't oh, baby. Hey, that's Emily's jam. I mean, she would she probably has that tattooed on her body somewhere. In fact, we're both like that.


None of my business. We're both doing that, that silly. And I never do these things on Facebook. But I have time now the top ten most influential albums. Mm hmm. And I was like, which one are you going to pick in the order? Or Depeche Mode for her? Because that's a that's a tough one.


Well, I mean, can't she's got 10 to choose from, right? Yeah. But I think for her, those two are so inextricably tied that it was one or the other.


I got you. And she went with Depeche Mode because they were first and thus probably more influential.


Depeche Mode was before New Order, huh? Yes.


I mean, technically, if you count new orders and ouch outcropping of Joy division, then they were first of all, Joy Division was different, though it was pretty different, different enough that they might as well be two different bands which they were.


You know who we need to take to give us the judgment call? Who is Frances Perkins?


Who who apparently would not have enjoyed our banter. She was very much known as a doubter. Yeah, serious woman. But from what I can tell, that's actually a public persona that she wore to get men to take her seriously and.


Well, who can blame her? Because we'll see later on about her. It's no accident that she's lost to history in many ways. Yeah, but what she was also was highly educated. She graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1932, where she majored in chemistry and physics, even though she made her name in economics, which is mean she was a very well rounded human and had a very large brain.


And apparently she had made it all the way through college. And in her senior year, I think she attended an economics lecture by Florence Kelly, who was a huge wage justice crusader. And that just changed her life.


Yeah, big time in nineteen. This is post college. She went to Philly and she became general secretary of the Philadelphia Research and Protective Association. What did she do there? Well, she was in charge of investigating employment agencies that were fake and that preyed on women, immigrant women specifically. And she had to sort of deal with the dregs of society in that job and did so very successfully and then decided she wanted to keep her education going. So while she was in Philly, she went to the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania, because that's super easy and light learning.


And then after that, she went to Columbia, where she earned M.A. in social economics in 1910.


And we should say, like she's getting all of this schooling. But at the same time, she's also set herself off on a path. What's that like? Learn while you work program called internship?


I guess so. That's not exactly what I'm looking for. But yeah, I mean, it makes sense. So she set herself up on a real world internship program. So while she was in Philly working for that bureau, she was investigating those those fake employment rackets like she was on the ground doing this stuff, like carrying out these inspections, investigating factories, like taking notes and like early twenties. Yeah, basically, yeah. And while she's studying this stuff, she's also out doing and seeing the stuff firsthand that she's learning about, which from what I can tell, she really kind of digested and held on to and it just kept driving her for the rest of her life, what she saw.


I think that's called the School of Hard Knocks. It is. But she enrolled in the Wharton School and the School of Hard Knocks at the same time, which is pretty impressive. That's right.


And after Columbia, after she got that master's for two years, she served as executive secretary of the Consumers League of New York.


And this is where she really felt her life calling to improve wages, improve working conditions, because this was 1910 through 1912 and things weren't great in factories at the time.


We could do a podcast on. I don't know what the focus would be necessarily. Because we've done labor unions, but just labor conditions. Yeah, maybe so Eye-Opening but there's she did she this is one of the things she did. There's very few more depressing words than these strung together. She improved working conditions for children.


Yeah, that was one of the things she did.


I know. And that was at the Consumers League of New York. And she got there and was like, yes, I've achieved my one of my first goals, which is working directly with the same Florence Kelly who gave the economics lecture that changed her life years before Mount Holyoke.


That's right. Yeah. So she was one of those ones who said, I want to do this and then we do it and then we move on to the next thing.


Yeah, she wouldn't stand around and wait for the statue to be built in her honor. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So we take a break. Uh, yes. All right.


We're going to take a break and talk about a pretty devastating fire in New York City that changed the course of her life right after this.


A ravenous pandemic, a ruinous recession, protest, riots, racial strife, police brutality and yes, Donald Trump America in 2020 feels like Apocalypse Now again.


I'm John Heilemann and in hell on high water.


I'll explore this moment in a series of raw and real conversations with the people who shape our culture. Hell and High Water is a podcast from the recount.


Listen to Hell and High Water on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.


What fire, Chuck, I'm talking about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in Manhattan, sort of near Washington Square Park in Greenwich, right next to Washington Square Park. Yeah, in Greenwich Village. I think it's an NYU building now. It is. And I tried to pinpoint if that was the building where I actually had my film classes.


Was it? I don't know.


I can't quite tell when we got to know Chuck, I'll see if I can find out. But a shirtwaist was a woman's blouse, is what they called it at the time. And this was a factory that made women's blouses. If you worked there, you were probably a young woman. You might be an immigrant. You would work about 52 hours a week.


Oh, I saw twelve hours a day, seven days a week.


What does that matter now to let's see the seven hundred and twenty. We I can't do math out loud. Well, let's say between 50 and 80 hours a week, you know, it was way more than that, 12 times seven. Eighty four. Yeah.


I sort of said eighty four hours a week. But like, even that doesn't sound that big. 12 hour days, seven days a week just to keep your job right.


So I saw 52. Either way, they made between seven and twelve dollars a week making these blouses for women, which was not good even back then.


Yeah, it wasn't good. And because this was a factory in New York in 1911, they had the doors locked. They had the staircases locked. They thought it prevented theft. If you remember what happened to lock doors and stairwells in our hotel fire episode, the same thing happened here on March 25th, 1911, when the Triangle Shirtwaist fire started because they think of a of a match or a cigarette butt thrown into a waste bin. Yeah. And it just, you know, everything in there was flammable practically.


That wasn't metal because of all these fabrics, like highly flammable. It went up really quick. It's one of the deadliest US workplace disasters of all time to this day for 146 workers died. One hundred and twenty three of which were women and girls between the ages of generally between fourteen and twenty three. The oldest was 43, but that was kind of an outlier. Mm hmm. And 62 of those people jumped to their death in front of full view of New York City, including, uh, Frances Perkins, right in front of Frances Perkins.


She didn't jump to her death. No, no, no. So she yes. She's literally witnessing one of the turning points in history as it happens, seeing women, teenage girls jump out of the ninth floor of this building because it's on fire.


And not only is she witnessing a fire that will change history, she is one of the people that will force history to change because of this fire, the the the the fate or the destiny that that put her a block away from this fire when it happened is it's just astounding to me that she was there because she went on to be one of the people who said this is never going to happen again. And under her watch, it basically didn't. It was the worst that it ever got.


And it never got that bad again because of the the safeguards she forced the state and then later on other states and the federal government to adopt.


Yeah, I mean, she was already kind of headed down this road anyway. She was already part of the New York State Factory Investigating Commission. And because of this fire, which she I don't think we said she was just having tea across the park there, ran over and saw this.


One of the things she saw at one point, there were 20 people that had managed to get out a window onto a fire escape, one of those tiny little flimsy New York fire escapes. And that all 20 of those people, the thing, collapse and they all fell to their 100 feet to their death right in front of her face.


Yeah, we need to do an entire episode on that, at the very least, just to to shame the two owners whose who were just totally responsible for all those deaths.


Yeah, absolutely. But this was sort of just the way it was. I mean, not absolving them.


But she saw this as part of the bigger problem, not like these two owners are responsible, but she was like it was an indictment of the system.


Yeah, it was. But at the same time, those guys were particularly nasty. Oh, for sure. The system, they weren't they weren't average by any means, from what I understand.


No, but what was average was the fact that they didn't have fire codes. And she's the person that brought that in. By the time she was in her early thirties, she had called for and successfully called for exit signs, occupancy limits, sprinklers, fire escapes, unlock doors and stairwells, how wide the doorways had to be depending on your factory floor, like all these sort of common sense things, like a lot of people saw this stuff happen and and saw this incident that day.


And we're horrified. But Frances Perkins said, nope, I'm going to change it. I'm a woman in 1911 and I'm in my early 30s, but I'm going to make this happen. And she did.


She did. She was appointed to the New York Committee on Safety under the recommendation of Teddy Roosevelt, which says a lot because that means she'd already made a name for herself in her 20s in New York City politics to the point where Teddy Roosevelt would say, like, you really kind of need this woman on there. And then let's not forget the fact that the operative word here was woman.


Yeah, as far as society was concerned at the time. And this this legislation that she got passed through in New York or that she helped get passed through New York, like I was saying, it became a model for other. And then eventually the federal fire codes, because of this, because of largely because of her efforts and she made a name for herself, she'd already made a name for herself. But this really kind of helped cement her name.


And she started working closely with a guy named Alfred E. Smith, who was an assemblyman so close to New York. Right.


But he she won his respect pretty easily. I think they worked on this New York Committee on Safety together. And so when he became governor, she kind of rose along with him. Yeah. She was appointed by him to New York State's Industrial Commission, which made her the first woman to be appointed to a state government position in the country. And with her eight thousand dollar salary, she was the highest paid woman to hold any office in the United States at the time.


So she became important pretty quick, but she became important.


Everybody, this is really important to remember by hard work and heart, which is a just a wonderful combination, like amazing things happen in from people who have that combination.




And she she ingratiated herself to these male politicians a couple of different important times in her life. And the first one was Alfred E. Smith, like you were saying. So she rose along with him because he knew he was like, man, I don't care if she's a woman or not. She works harder than anyone I know and she gets the job done.


So I'm just going to bring her along with me and not just not just work as hard as she was known as a policy expert about worker safety and wage justice by this time, too. Well, yeah.


I mean, I talked about her very large brain and her higher education. She was super, super smart. Like I said, she majored in chemistry and physics, even though her real love was econ. So it's like, are you kidding me?


No, we're not kidding at all. No, it's very much true. So so like you were saying, she first kind of rose to prominence with Alfred E. Smith, who, from what I can tell, I didn't get to research him very much. But the stuff that I ran across, the references to him, he seemed like a genuine like a true believer crusader in justice, social justice as well. Yeah.


So they were like good a good pair. And he made it as far as New York governor, he ran for president and didn't win. And when he didn't win, he, I guess, lost the governorship and was succeeded by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And so Roosevelt came in, came into power in New York as the governor of New York. And Frances Perkins was already there and had already built up a reputation. And Roosevelt recognized the kind of person she was pretty quickly, because a lot of people are you know, you can give a lot of credit or a lot of vilification to Roosevelt for his New Deal policies, depending on your political stripes.


But if you you know, if you admire him for it and I think most people should, he it wasn't just him.


One of his great talents was to recognize talent in others. Yeah. And to bring those people together and then enact policies based on their expertise and their recommendations. And one of those people was Frances Perkins, starting when he was governor of New York and then also when he became president to.


Yes, when he came into his governorship, she had already been named and was the the chairperson called it a chairman back then in nineteen twenty six of the state industrial board. She was doing a great job there. And then in nineteen twenty nine, FDR appointed her as the industrial commissioner of the state of New York. And what happens? The stock market crashes the Great Depression hits America like a punch in the face. And she was the one who stepped in and got in his ear and said, you know what?


Like, I know that we have to to feed people right now. And we have really immediate needs. But like you mentioned earlier in the episode, she thought about the the big picture and long term goals. She said we need to really take swift action here. So with her help, they created a committee unemployment. He appointed her the head of that. And then when he was elected president in 1933, he said, you know what, I'm going to point you to be my secretary of labor.


That was who I've been working with you for 20 years. I trust you. And you're going to do a great job. And the public roundly said, what, a woman in the cabinet.


They really did. I mean, like she she was the first cabinet, first woman to serve as a cabinet member.


I mean, women had just gotten the right to vote about 13, twelve or thirteen years before.


So you couldn't vote till she was forty. I know. And and yet she held public public appointed offices and still couldn't vote but wasn't allowed to.


Vote for her boss. Right, exactly, yeah, so it was a really big deal that FDR appointed a woman as opposed to a cabinet position in an important cabinet position, too. I mean, like it's not like there's any necessarily unimportant cabinet positions, but secretary of Labor is pretty big. Yeah, especially. Yeah, especially then. Right. And especially, you know, at a time when this this emerging superpower took a huge punch in the face and got knocked on its butt like the rest of the world by the Great Depression.


This is important stuff that they were trying to figure out on the fly. But he chose a really, really great person who wasn't really accepted at first, not just by the public, but by virtually anybody. The labor unions weren't happy. She was there because she had a background in social work and policy lever them to death. Yes, but she eventually won them over just by virtue of what she did. Like the labor movement was on the ropes at the time.


The Progressive Era ran from, I think, 1890 to about 1920. So by the time 1929, 1930 comes around, it's it's dying off the the labor movement. But under her leadership, as the Department of Labor secretary, she revived it. And by the time she either died or left office, I can't remember. I think a third of all Americans were members of unions.


Yeah. And pre the union stuff, like kind of right after the Great Depression hit, one of the first things they did together was created the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, which was a really big success, one of the big early successes of the New Deal in that they said, you know what, we have all this we have this workforce of these unskilled, unmarried men. And let's get these guys working in conservation. We have this vast areas of rural land and natural resources.


And let's send these guys out there to work on this stuff. And they did. And it provided a ton of jobs to the Civilian Conservation Corps.


It did. And it also helped reinforce and build out America's infrastructure, too, because they had all this labor that the government was putting to work doing it, right? Yes. So she was in charge of overseeing that.


And one of the one of the other, I guess the next big thing I think it was before Social Security was something called the Wagner Act and the Wagner Act.


I think you mean the Vikner Act. The the the Wagner Wagner Act, depending on your persuasion, it gave workers the right to unionize and the right to collectively bargain.


Yeah. And one of her roles was to go out and promote this stuff, not just to, you know, other members of the government or members of industry, but to individual Americans, too. So in 1933 alone, she gave 100 different policy speeches in just that one year on New Deal projects promoting them. And one of the speeches she gave, I don't know if it was in that year or not, but she went to Homestead, Pennsylvania, right across the river from Pittsburgh, where Carnegie Steel was headquartered.


And she was going to inform these workers about their newly won rights through the Wagner Act and Carnegie Steel. And the local government would not give her any place to hold this this meeting. They wouldn't give the secretary of labor a place to talk to voters. So she and there's apparently a famous picture of her leading all of these steel workers on foot to a post office. She's like, oh, I can think of a place where I can assemble legally.


And that is the post office. So she gave her speech on the grounds of the Homestead Post Office to thousands of steel workers, informing them that they could legally unionize and bargain collectively for workers rights.


That's amazing. I feel like. If I feel like we had to have talked about her and our Unions' episode, mm hmm. And if we didn't, shame on us, but also shame on the fact that she probably didn't pop up in our research, which is one of the problems.


Yeah, mostly the second one. All right.


You pass that buck, buck stops over there. Well, we're making up for it now either way.


OK, Chuck. So we were saying at the outset that if you got an unemployment check, thank Frances Perkins or if you ever get an unemployment check, if you even like the idea of the fact that an unemployment insurance policy is out there for you in case you ever need it. Thank Frances Perkins. And the reason you think Frances Perkins is because she basically oversaw the creation of the legislation that became the Social Security Act of 1935. And when I say oversaw the creation of that legislation like she was it, she was the head of this cabinet level committee that was assigned the task of coming up with a social insurance policy, a social safety net for the country.


And they came up with this within six months, this full policy report. And within two days of delivering the report, FDR turned around and unveiled the Social Security program idea to Congress in another six months or so, later, maybe eight, it passed into law.


Yeah. And, boy, we should do one on Social Security at some point.


I agree. I think we have mantello really positive. Yeah. It really rings a bell. Go ahead. I'm looking at it. Well, no, I'm going to have our little our assistant over here check that. Can you go and check on that? OK, they're on it.


Who is Tommy Chong like? We've never had anyone that worked for us.


That's the funny thing, is when we get emails over the years that like, well, to Josh and Chuck and Jerry or whoever on your staff is reading this, it's like, yeah, it's pretty much us. Yeah, well, we're reading these emails while we're having to sweep up the studio.


Well, I want to be fair to be fair, we work for a a big podcasting network and there are a lot of people that help us get stuff out in the world. But we have never had like a stuffy should know, staff of eight people who know only work for us and research for us and all that stuff.


And I feel like it really shows in the podcast. I feel like I'm glad you said that because I felt like I was patting ourselves on the back for a second. There they have you dash that very fast. Sure. Self-deprecating, Chuck. That's our specialty.


That's right. So Social Security, what we're talking about in general, everyone knows what this is, is basically a system where younger, hearty people working hard in this country help out older people, retired people, perhaps disabled people, people that have had work related accidents, people who were funny hats, people who wear funny hats and pay into this system that ideally and, you know, we're not going to get into the weeds here that would come in our Social Security podcast.


But ideally, then, when you are old or in need, then you have that same money waiting for you because of the younger generation in the younger workforce. Right.


That's the brilliance of the whole thing, is it's a transfer payment system to where you are directly funding the people who have retired now. But it's on the premise that people behind you are going to fund into this to support you later on. Right. It's beautiful. It's a genius idea. And apparently FDR sent her, Frances Perkins, to study the British system of unemployment insurance even before he was president, back when he was governor of New York. And he became the first public official to commit to developing an unemployment insurance plan.


And it was at the persistent behest of Frances Perkins that he did that.


Yeah. And it's not like I mean, he didn't run for office with Social Security on his list of things to do.


Well, yeah, that's the thing a lot of people say, like if it weren't for her, no joke, this stuff probably wouldn't exist, certainly not in the form that it does now. And that's not necessarily fair. There are like there were programs that had like Social Security type programs among the states, including unemployment programs, but they were ad hoc, they were patchwork. Most states didn't have them. And it's the kind of the the the beauty of the federal program is they're basically like, OK, states do this, but we're going to oversee it and organize it and help fund it.


Yeah, and it's not like I was saying that all the FDR was like not a champion of it or was just lazy. He was he had a bunch of stuff going on and he had a bunch of irons in the fire. So he needed her to come in and say, hey, listen, this is all great because we're in a in a tragic situation right now. Like, we're trying to put out a fire. But what I want to do is make sure another fire doesn't happen in the future.


Yes. And that was like her whole thing. Like, we do need to make sure that people get peanut butter sandwiches because their families are going to starve, like, yes, these immediate needs have to be met. But we also simultaneously have to plan for the future, too. It was it was just this persistent drum that she beat. Like, we're going to continue to have problems. Let's plan for him now, like the level of visionary ness in this in this person was you just don't see that.


I can't think of too many other people who've come and gone in the federal government in the United States, at least, that had that level of, I guess, awareness of looking down the line that far rather than just, you know, four years out or to the next election.


Yeah. And she also, you know, we talked about some of the things she did earlier in terms of of her career, in terms of fair labor practices. But when she was secretary of labor, she had real teeth to make real change. And during her tenure, she helped craft the Fair Labor Standards Act. She helped establish minimum wage laws, maximum work hours, laws. And she finally said, you know what, maybe we shouldn't make labor for children better.


Maybe we should not bring our children to work and make them work. So let's just get rid of child labor altogether.


And you can make the case, Chuck, that she is the woman who gave America's kids the concept of childhood. Yeah, at the very least, she extended it by many, many years.


Totally. I've got another amazing fact about her.


She, I believe, is the first cabinet member who Congress ever sought to impeach. Oh, really? Yes, I'm almost positive.


That's correct. I know that they did try to impeach her and they failed in the impeachment, not just the conviction. She they couldn't get enough support for articles of impeachment, but it was because she refused to deport an Australian longshoreman who'd successfully organize a general strike in San Francisco and the anti-communist communist elements in Congress because it's suspected that this guy was a communist and wanted him out. And she said, you know, I don't think very highly of this guy.


I don't really agree with a lot of what he stands for. But I don't think that you have really good evidence. And I think this is all retaliation for the strike you organized. So I'm not going to deport him. And you might say, well, why did this lady have to do with deporting apparently back in the day, the immigration, the power of immigration or control of immigration was up to the Department of Labor. So the secretary of labor was also in charge of immigration, which really kind of gives you an idea of where America's immigration policies, you know, where their mind was that.


Yeah, that it was about importing, you know, good, good, good workers or also controlling who came in to keep competition for jobs down. Totally. But she so she was in charge of immigration, which as we'll see later on, she used to great effect.


Is that our little is that our cherry on top at the end? Yeah, I think so. OK, that's a good idea. It's the kid with the last question in Q&A and. Oh man. And not the drunk guy.


Hate that guy. So when FDR passed away in 1945, she was the longest serving labor secretary and one of only two cabinet members to serve the entire length of his super, super long presidency. And she held over into Truman as well. He was like, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So you're welcome to stay, which you don't see a lot of that anymore. Yeah, she published a biography, a bestseller about FDR called The Roosevelt I Knew.


And here are a few other just sort of career feathers in her cap. She was the head of the American delegation to the International Labour Organization in Paris. Truman appointed her to the U.S. Civil Service Commission, which was a position she held till 1953. And she basically accomplished every single one of her goals while she was secretary of labor, except for one thing she went in there wanting to do, which was universal access to health care. Yeah, it's just kind of a bummer.


Some people might say it's a bummer.


Some people might say good. Sure.


She also played drums for Dokken for a brief time for a little bit. She did it all and all while wearing a frumpy, tri cornered hat. That's right.


And then after that, she did what a lot of people in public policy do. She went on to teach and lecture at the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.


She did that to till she was eighty five years old when she passed away in 1965.


Yes, there were a couple of other things to throw into. Both her husband and her daughter suffered from what we today call bipolar disorder.


Yeah, she cared for them their entire lives then that little thing. Yeah, right. Can you imagine? No.


While she's doing all this other stuff, she made sure that they were cared for, took care of them directly herself. And one of the other things I think is worth mentioning, too, that before FDR became president, while she was working in New York, she was already known publicly.


Before she became secretary of labor, because she was the first public official to call Hoover out on his B.S. when he was downplaying joblessness numbers and unemployment figures and just general terrible economic news and pretending things were way better than they were, she was the first person to step up and publicly contradict him and made national news for that. Wow. And, you know, again, this is a woman doing this in like 1930. So just that alone makes national news.


But she was also calling him out on his B.S.. And one thing that we have to say before you finish with the cherry on top, Chuck, is she had guys figured out she had a folder called Notes on the Male Mind, and she would just take notes on guys and men that she worked with and just kind of try to get an understanding of them.


And she she realized that the way to get male colleagues to treat you normally or maybe even respect to you is to remind them of their mother. That's what it takes, apparently, to get a guy to treat a woman with respect that work.


Well, and, you know, we mentioned why she's under sung there. You know, history is written by men. We all know this. And a lot of those New Deal histories in the 70s and 80s didn't even mention her, which is just staggering that you can write a history of the New Deal and not mention Frances Perkins. It's just like a black eye on on any author that did something like that.


It almost seems malicious in a weird way. Like I like to think that that's not the case, but what other explanation is there?


It's nuts and it's weird. So the cherry on top here at the end is World War two. She wrote War two is not cherry on top, but she was watching Hitler do his thing in Germany and got really worried. She's like, man, that guy's cranked. She was read about anti-Semitism and everything that was going on with the violence there. And she wanted to help German refugees escape. And at the time, the Coolidge administration, the immigration laws that came through his administration were really tough.


And Americans were very fearful that relaxing these laws would increase the job competition and that Americans weren't going to have these jobs. And she said, you know what, I don't agree. The Immigration Services under the Department of Labor. And so I am going to put some quotas down to get some of these refugees here and to aid them. And she did that to great success.


Yes, she made sure that about at least 55000 Jewish German immigrants made their way into the United States through these Department of Labor immigration quotas. And another, I think 200000 people in general were rescued from Europe as as World War Two was starting to develop over there because of her just on top of everything else. She also saved a bunch of tens of thousands of Jewish people from Hitler in World War Two. Amazing, amazing.


Türk, I guess that's it for Frances Perkins, huh? That's it. Well, if you want to know more about Frances Perkins, go start reading about her, because there's even more detail to her life than we captured here. And she's worth reading about a very admirable person. And since I said admirable, it's time for listener mail. I'm going to call this helping a helper, and this is from Tony. Tony says this Hey, guys have been sewing face masks for almost a month now, and I'm close to my 1000 mask, and it's a lot.


And I have given and donated to friends, family, co-workers. I'm a nine one one dispatcher, by the way. Health care workers, retail workers, delivery people, postal workers and other essential workers and people wearing funny hats, the people wearing funny hats and complete strangers. Now that face masks have become mandatory here in San Diego, the need has grown substantially. And through all of this, you three have been with me and keeping me company so much, too.


Well, yeah, OK.


She wasn't talking about Tommy Chong. I'll tell you that. Uh, old episodes and new have entertained me through the tedious hours of cutting fabric, ironing, pinning and sewing. I started listening to your podcast while I was in the Navy and soon introduce you guys to my husband, who was still in the military. We both listened and learned through the years together. Thank you for continuing your show and helping the helpers of the world. Side note, love the 911 dispatcher episode and thank you for clearing up the pizza order myth.


Second side note, I wrote my master's thesis on the use of body worn cameras by law enforcement and I decided to focus on that topic, that topic after listening to that awesome episode.


Oh, neat. Yeah, it's pretty cool.


All three of you were thanked and mentioned in the thesis even. Oh, that's cool when I'm tired and don't want to so anymore I think of this quote from Mr. Rogers head down when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers.


You will always find people who are helping go to them and they will help you. And that is from Tony. And that's a great quote, Tony. I'm going to use that my own house.


It's kind of like if you're afraid of flying, watch the flight attendants. And as long as they're not freaking out, you're fine. It's the exact same thing he's saying when the s when the S goes down, there's people helping. So that's always good.


God bless Mr. Rogers and you. Oh, man. Yeah. Thanks a lot. Is it Tony Tahnee to WNYC? I couldn't tell if you were just putting a little mustard on Tony. No, like Tawny Kitaen. Sure. Yeah.


From the Whitesnake snake, that cultural icon. Well, thanks a lot, Tony. I apologize for Chuck calling you tiny contain. OK, can I apologize for you. Sure. OK, well, I'm going to do that if you want to get me to apologize for Charles. Let's see if you can do it. You can send us an email, wrap it up, spank it on the bottom and send it off to stuff. Podcast I heart radio dotcom.


Stuff you should know is a production of radios HowStuffWorks for more podcasts, my heart radio, the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. I'm John Heilemann, host of the podcast Hell and High Water from the Recount America in 2020 feels like Apocalypse Now again. And this podcast, I'll explore the turmoil and upheaval roiling the country.


You've heard the phrase come hell or high water.


Well, right now we're facing both hell and high water, and it's going to leave a mark to understand this moment better.


I'm calling on the people who shape our culture in politics, entertainment, business, tech and beyond.


Talk through what we've lost, what comes next and what needs to change, and how we can turn these overlapping crises into an opportunity to reimagine and rebuild everything that's broken, meaning pretty much everything.


So join me every Tuesday for a series of conversations, raw and real, unrehearsed and unpredictable, about this mess we're in and figuring out how to pull together and rise above it.


Hell and high water as a podcast from the recount.


Listen to hell on high water on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.