Krull, Kathleen. The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-49151-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.
Readers may know author Kathleen Krull from her writings on important feminist leaders, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Louisa May Alcott. This book, in that same vein, is about a woman who was instrumental in FDR’s New Deal – but rarely given any credit. Frances Perkins learned from a young age to walk through any proverbial door that opened, and she lived by those words every day of her life. As a quiet girl growing up in New England, she observed and listened to the world around her. She saw the extreme inequities between the working class and upper class, even at a young age. Perkins observed working conditions in places like textile mills and bakeries. She helped people in need by fighting for better working conditions, a fight that intensified after she watched the smoldering fire at The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory claim the lives of 146 victims. Perkins knew that in order to make a real difference, she needed to enter the all-male world of politics. Luckily, President Theodore Roosevelt heard of her wonderful work and recommended her to head a committee on workplace safety. Although she was always the only woman in the room, her hard work and compassion allowed her to climb the ranks until she became President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. Finally, she had a front row seat in the president’s cabinet of advisors; however, many men who worked with her despised answering to a woman and either quit or made snide remarks behind her back. Perkins did not let this deter her – she went on to author the ground-breaking New Deal and presented it to FDR himself.
THOUGHTS: This book is a reminder that even though our textbooks often credit white males for important events in American history, the real credit often goes to other people behind the scenes. Although Frances Perkins did not like the limelight and preferred not receiving credit for her incredible deeds, it is still critical that librarians expose young readers to all facets of historical events. This biographical book reads like a story and the bright, cartoon-like illustrations will capture elementary readers from the first page.
331 Women Social Reformers Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD