West Linn author memorializes labor rights pioneer
West Linn author Deborah Hopkinson is once again introducing young readers to a critical piece of history. This time it's the workers' rights movement.
Hopkinson, whose works comprise more than 50 books of mostly children's historical fiction and nonfiction, is releasing her newest book, "Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for Workers' Rights," this August to mark the 85th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security act.
The biographical picture book tells the story of Perkins, who served as the U.S. secretary of labor from 1933 to 1945 and was the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet position.
Perkin's life would forever be changed after she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911, according to Hopkinson's book.
The fire, which led to the death of over 100 young workers, provided a spark for the labor rights movement, igniting passion in Perkins as well.
"She wanted to help make new laws, to force factory owners and employers to treat people better and make workplaces safer," Hopkinson writes. "The changes Frances fought to bring about made all Americans more aware of the importance of social responsibility and the welfare of others."
As labor secretary during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, Perkins helped create the country's Social Security program.
"When Frances Perkins set about to change history, she did it the best way she knew how — little by little, step by step, using her heart and her mind," the book reads. "She listened to ideas, gave speeches, made plans, and gathered people to work with her."
Hopkinson said in her research for the book, and previous writings on the Triangle Shirtwaiste Company fire, she was struck by the way the tragedy galvanized the worker's movement.
"If we look at what's happening now, with policing and systematic injustice and racism, the Triangle fire really had a similar effect on people," she said.
Hopkinson said she hopes the book helps kids realize they are living through a critical historical moment, and that they have the ability to change history if they take action.
Since her first book came out in 1993, Hopkinson has written more than 50 books, and been honored at the Oregon Book Awards multiple times.
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