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Becoming Madam Secretary

by Stephanie Dray

Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray X
Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray
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There are currently 31 member reviews
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  • Shawna L. (Pearland, TX)
    Outstanding Historical Fiction
    I knew very little about Frances Perkins but am familiar with the history of the FDR era. I found myself wondering how much was historical and how much was fiction. Dray's note at the end detailed what was historical. As usual, Dray has done her research and the novel stays close to fact in much of the novel. The influence of Frances Perkins continues to this day. Book groups will find much to discuss about Miss Perkins' personal life, professional life, and the balance between them.
  • Ellen H. (Leonia, NJ)
    Such an impressive woman!
    I really enjoyed Becoming Madam Secretary. I knew a little about Frances Perkins but learned so much more reading the book. Her legacy spans many years, famous personalities, and social issues. She was influential in reforms on child labor, maximum working hours, standard minimum wage, and a Social Security safety net for American laborers. There are so many things that we take for granted today that she championed during her career. She encountered many famous people working and found a way to work with all of them to advance her revolutionary ideas. McManus of Tammany Hall, Al Smith, FDR and the author Sinclair Lewis all are woven into Secretary Perkins story. She worked alongside Jane Addams, Florence Kelley and Mary Harriman Rumsey for the rights of children and women in the workforce. She was a very private woman, but her own personal story is very moving. Her support of her husband and daughter during their struggles with mental illness and her deep friendships attest to her strength of character. The author, Stephanie Dray did an excellent job of bringing Frances Perkins to light in this book.
  • Jeanne W. (Colorado Springs, CO)
    Historical Fiction at Its Best
    What a great book! I'm embarrassed to say I knew nothing of Frances Perkins nor her incredible achievements. A fiction book that sends the reader searching for more information must be a great book and this is one of them. She was such an accomplished woman, for her times and even for today, and she should be an entire chapter in school history books. Because the source material was, at times, difficult to come by or non-existent, sometimes the book comes across as a series of vignettes. But that's my only critique and I continue to be astonished that a book about the woman deeply involved in FDR's New Deal and the architect of Social Security could be such a page-turner!
  • Jane M. (Carmel, IN)
    Great story
    What a powerful story about a person I had never heard of but who was very important to US history. I am in awe of women who persevered through so much opposition when there were no role models for them. This book was very well written and I really enjoyed the author's note at the end.
  • Carole A. (Denver, CO)
    Strong woman on whose shoulders women and the nation stand
    As a student of history I always enjoy the historical fiction treatment for people and events created by various authors. Becoming Madame Secretary so enlightening about Frances Perkins and her role in the events that shaped the world as we know it today I call it historical fiction with a capital "H". Indeed one must wonder where our nation would be if not for Frances Perkins.

    Women who have been and are in public service and also with careers in other fields know the challenges of these positions when coupled with marriage and a family. What Perkins achieved is amazing. We can certainly thank her as one of the women on whose shoulders we stand as she forged new pathways for women.

    The counsel and foresight Perkins shared with Roosevelt did, there is little doubt, contribute to many of the positive directions and programs during his administrations. Dray, true to her previous books, has woven an interesting dialogue covering some very important parts of the history of our nation.

    A book worth reading for your personal illumination as well as a book destined for book clubs and the many different directions the conversations can flow.
  • Janice A. (Colfax, WI)
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    I found Stephanie Dray's book very interesting and well written. As with so many historical fiction books that feature women in prominent roles, this book introduced me to another women, Frances Perkins, a strong advocate and leader in labor issues. Miss Perkins (as she was addressed) became the first women who served in the U.S. Cabinet after being nominated by President-elect Franklin Roosevelt. The author includes Perkins work for the poor and underemployed women and children aa well as her private life and the struggle she faced in each and the conflict she managed between the two. If history classes had featured more women such as Perkins, and less war stories, perhaps I and many other women and girls would find history interesting and relatable. Drays has written a book that expands our knowledge of women in history.
  • Dianne S. (East Meadow, NY)
    Everything you wanted (or did not want) to know about Frances Perkins
    Frances Perkins was an extraordinary woman. Stephanie Dray exhaustively highlights her achievements as first a social worker researching and seeking to improve the nutrition of babies and finally as a trusted and effective member of FDR's cabinet. As Labor Secretary, the first woman ever to be a member of any Presidential cabinet, she fought to institute our social security system, rescue Jewish children from Nazi held countries and championed many excellent WPA projects that gave people jobs and dignity. She continued her fight for the rights of workers. She also fought the many men who sought to marginalize her throughout her life.
    Dray also shed light on Perkin's personal life. Her lifelong love/hate relationship with her mother. The downward spiral of her once happy marriage as her husband Paul is increasingly depressed and eventually needed to be institutionalized. Her friendships with Sinclair Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt and millionaire socialite Mary Harriman Rumsey who provided her with both financial assistance and an emotional bond that was the most important in her life. Dray also portrays Perkins struggles, so pertinent to many working woman, to juggle her commitment to be a loving, available mother to her daughter throughout their lives with her commitment to her equally demanding and fulfilling work life.
    I was familiar with the important role that Perkins played in the Roosevelt's new deal but learned so much more about her truly consequential role as a social reformer. However, the book is often repetitive and provides overly exhaustive detail, especially regarding her relationships with Paul and Ramsey. I often found I skipped whole pages to avoid some details. Overall, this is an illuminating look at a very important social reformer who broke many glass ceilings long before we characterized her success in that light.


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