The most important liberal you’ve never heard of: Frances Perkins


On what would have been her 133rd birthday, msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell honored the most important liberal woman forgotten from American political history: Frances Perkins, the architect of Social Security.

During Wednesday’s Rewrite segment, O’Donnell payed homage to Perkins–coincidentally on the same day President Obama proposed cuts and changes  in these benefits in line with many Republican sentiments.

“The man gets all the credit in popular history, but the woman did all the work,” O’Donnell said. “Social Security was her idea. It would never have become law without her.” As the U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Perkins had immense influence on his policy decisions.

A chance meeting at a tea party with then-Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone provided Perkins with the legal framework for her initiative, setting into place certain present day laws of the same nature.

“The Constitutionality of Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act are all based on Frances Perkins’ novel use of the power to tax 78 years ago,” O’Donnell explained.

“Frances Perkins was a self-made woman,” O’Donnell said. “She did not advance her career by marriage. She didn’t flinch at challenges that everyone else considered impossible. Frances Perkins changed the world the old fashioned way–with hard work, persistence and passion. Tonight, this country owes a happy birthday nod to a uniquely American hero.”