The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America

by Kathleen Krull (Author) Alexandra Bye (Illustrator)

The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Discover the incredible life of Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and the mastermind behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, in this fascinating picture book biography that's perfect for fans of I Dissent.

Most people know about President FDR, but do you know the woman who created his groundbreaking New Deal?

As a young girl, Frances Perkins was very shy and quiet. But her grandmother encouraged Frances to always challenge herself. When somebody opens a door to you, go forward.

And so she did.

Frances realized she had to make her voice heard, even when speaking made her uncomfortable, and use it to fight injustice and build programs to protect people across the nation. So when newly-elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally asked Frances to be the first female Secretary of Labor and help pull the nation out of the Great Depression, she knew she had to walk through that open door and forward into history.

In this empowering, inspirational biography, discover how the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet led the charge to create the safety net that protects American workers and their families to this day.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-6—Before she became a member of Franklin Roosevelt's cabinet, Frances Perkins was a shy girl who loved literature. While a college student at Mount Holyoke in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Perkins was required to observe the working conditions at local textile and paper mills. The treatment of the adult and children factory workers was horrifying to witness. She wrote articles about the terrible working environments and then earned a job documenting these conditions. After the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Perkins advocated for many of the fire safety features that are available today in every public building, like glass cases with fire extinguishers, fire exits, fire drills, and water sprinklers. She became the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary for FDR and was a crucial part of the New Deal. The illustrations are detailed without being too dense and help move the narrative forward. The text also contains details about the sexism Perkins faced and could start discussions about how society's attitudes toward gender have changed or stayed the same over the course of history. VERDICT This would be a serviceable biographical addition to any library collection. A resource for anyone who wishes to learn more about the women who helped shape the United States.—Debbie Tanner, S D Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

"When someone opens a door to you, go forward." Advice from Frances Perkins's grandmother guided her life. Before she became "the first woman ever to join a presidential cabinet," Perkins had transformed herself from a quiet observer to an effective activist, building a career on righting wrongs--operating as a social worker, speaking out for suffrage, reporting on hazardous workplaces, and advocating for fire safety after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. When FDR asks Perkins to serve as secretary of labor, she agrees--as long as "FDR allowed her to do it her way." In 1935, Perkins achieved "her most far-reaching dream... the life-changing Social Security Act." Weaving in quotes from Perkins, Krull crafts a deft introduction to the achievements of a remarkable woman. Bye's snappy illustrations are notable for crisp lines and stylized period flair. Supplemental materials included. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Brimming with realistic detail about the difficulties of pursuing one's goals and making a difference while functioning as a woman in the first half of the 20th century...Krull smoothly describes Perkins' influences and motivations, her sensitivity to and awareness of injustice, how she overcame some of the fears and constraints she faced, her development as an advocate, and her many a kid-friendly and accessible appealing, informative picture-book biography that showcases the accomplishments of a great American heroine."—Kirkus Reviews "November 1, 2019"
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
February 20, 2020

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