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Reading guide for Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray

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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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  • Published:
    Mar 2024, 528 pages


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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Frances Perkins considered herself the descendant of revolutionary patriots. How did this image of herself and her place in the American story influence her career choices?
  2. The Triangle shirtwaist factory fire profoundly impacted Perkins. Can you think of other examples from the novel where a single event changed the direction of a character's life?
  3. How did Perkins navigate the discrimination she faced as a woman? What instances in the book struck you the most about this struggle? What scenes most effectively demonstrate her resilience?
  4. Frances Perkins's family struggled with mental illness in a time when bipolar disease was not well understood. How might things have turned out differently for her, and for the country, if her husband's illness could have been effectively treated?
  5. Frances Perkins often believed that she had to compromise to accomplish her goals; what did you think of her decisions in this regard, and were those compromises effective?
  6. How did the portrayal of Frances Perkins's difficulty in balancing her personal and professional life make her more relatable as a character and human being?
  7. Frances Perkins struggled with the accusation that she may have been a better American patriot than she was a mother. What are your thoughts on that?
  8. The evolution of the complex relationship between Perkins and President Franklin D. Roosevelt is a central plot point in the novel. What surprised you about this relationship? How did it shed light on history?
  9. Perkins was the driving force behind the Social Security Act. How does the novel's portrayal of this landmark achievement heighten your understanding and appreciation of it?
  10. Perkins's legacy continues to live on in our society today. With the five-day workweek, fire and food safety regulations, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, can you name the ways your own life or the lives of your family members have been impacted by Frances Perkins?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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