Cover image for The only woman in the photo : Frances Perkins & her New Deal for America
The only woman in the photo : Frances Perkins & her New Deal for America
First edition.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
Reading Level:
950 Lexile.
Added Author:
"Biography of Frances Perkins, the first female member of the presidential cabinet, and architect of much of the New Deal legislation as Secretary of Labor."--Provided by publisher.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book E 331.092 KRU 1 1

On Order



Discover the incredible life of Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and the mastermind behind Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, in this fascinating picture book biography that's perfect for fans of I Dissent .

Most people know about President FDR, but do you know the woman who created his groundbreaking New Deal?

As a young girl, Frances Perkins was very shy and quiet. But her grandmother encouraged Frances to always challenge herself. When somebody opens a door to you, go forward .

And so she did.

Frances realized she had to make her voice heard, even when speaking made her uncomfortable, and use it to fight injustice and build programs to protect people across the nation. So when newly-elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally asked Frances to be the first female Secretary of Labor and help pull the nation out of the Great Depression, she knew she had to walk through that open door and forward into history.

In this empowering, inspirational biography, discover how the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet led the charge to create the safety net that protects American workers and their families to this day.

Author Notes

Kathleen Krull is the author of No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader , as well as A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull ; Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) ; The Only Woman in the Photo ; and other acclaimed biographies for young readers. She lives in San Diego, California. Visit her website at

Alexandra Bye is a freelance illustrator specializing in fun, colorful illustrations for a variety of media such as editorial and children's publications. Her work is constantly inspired by her flourishing New England community and reflects the energy and dynamic personality of home town pride. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, Nordic ski racing, Jiu Jitsu, studying nutritional therapy, and hiking in the White Mountains with her dog, Oliver.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3--6--Before she became a member of Franklin Roosevelt's cabinet, Frances Perkins was a shy girl who loved literature. While a college student at Mount Holyoke in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Perkins was required to observe the working conditions at local textile and paper mills. The treatment of the adult and children factory workers was horrifying to witness. She wrote articles about the terrible working environments and then earned a job documenting these conditions. After the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Perkins advocated for many of the fire safety features that are available today in every public building, like glass cases with fire extinguishers, fire exits, fire drills, and water sprinklers. She became the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary for FDR and was a crucial part of the New Deal. The illustrations are detailed without being too dense and help move the narrative forward. The text also contains details about the sexism Perkins faced and could start discussions about how society's attitudes toward gender have changed or stayed the same over the course of history. VERDICT This would be a serviceable biographical addition to any library collection. A resource for anyone who wishes to learn more about the women who helped shape the United States.--Debbie Tanner, S D Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Publisher's Weekly Review

"When someone opens a door to you, go forward." Advice from Frances Perkins's grandmother guided her life. Before she became "the first woman ever to join a presidential cabinet," Perkins had transformed herself from a quiet observer to an effective activist, building a career on righting wrongs--operating as a social worker, speaking out for suffrage, reporting on hazardous workplaces, and advocating for fire safety after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. When FDR asks Perkins to serve as secretary of labor, she agrees--as long as "FDR allowed her to do it her way." In 1935, Perkins achieved "her most far-reaching dream... the life-changing Social Security Act." Weaving in quotes from Perkins, Krull crafts a deft introduction to the achievements of a remarkable woman. Bye's snappy illustrations are notable for crisp lines and stylized period flair. Supplemental materials included. Ages 4--8. (Feb.)

Horn Book Review

President Roosevelt usually gets credit for the New Deal programs that helped pull America out of the Great Depression, but as Krulls latest picture-book biography (The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), rev. 5/13) makes clear, the real credit is due to the first woman ever to join a presidential cabinet, FDRs Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. A shy and quiet child, Perkins was always thinking about the injustices she saw growing up. Inspired by advice from her grandmother (when someone opens a door to you go forward), Perkins would spend her life speaking up for the most vulnerable as a pioneering social worker, suffragist, and author. She helped improve conditions in NYCs low-income neighborhoods and workplaces, and her activism led to a career in the all-male world of politics. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins proposed nothing less than a restructuring of American society with the New Deal and the Social Security Act of 1935. This inspiring biography of a woman who paved the way for so many future leaders (as the cleverly designed endpapers make clear) is long overdue. Krulls straightforward yet passionate narrative is packed with information, succinctly pinpointing key biographical moments and explaining complex history. Direct quotes from Perkins in stylized hand-lettered script accompany Byes child-friendly digital illustrations, which are as dynamic and colorful as their remarkable subject. An authors note and sources are appended. Cynthia K. Ritter March/April 2020 p.102(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

"When someone opens a door to you, go forward."From shy child to keen observer, vocal activist to highly effective political adviser, Frances Perkins led a life of tremendous worth, helping others as a volunteer, social worker, expert investigator, workplace-safety regulator, industrial commissioner, and, ultimately, the first woman Secretary of Labor. Brimming with realistic detail about the difficulties of pursuing one's goals and making a difference while functioning as a woman in the first half of the 20th century, this appealing volume features colorful and appealing animation-inflected illustrations peppered with ideas that inspired Perkins; these appear as banners, headlines, and signposts throughout the story. Krull smoothly describes Perkins' influences and motivations, her sensitivity to and awareness of injustice, how she overcame some of the fears and constraints she faced, her development as an advocate, and her many accomplishmentsincluding her major contributions to (some say authorship of) FDR's New Deal and the adoption of the Social Security Actin a kid-friendly and accessible manner, focusing almost entirely on Perkins' professional accomplishments. As for Perkins' personal life, the afterword briefly refers to her husband and daughter within the context of their "significant health problems" (both experienced mental illness), but the text is silent on Perkins' same-sex relationship following her husband's institutionalization.Overall, an appealing, informative picture-book biography that showcases the accomplishments of a great American heroine. (Picture book/biography. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Frances Perkins is credited with creating the U.S. Social Security system, so she's long overdue for some attention. This handsome picture-book biography traces her life as a soft-spoken young girl through her 14-year stint as Secretary of Labor during the FDR administration. The accessible text relates how Perkins came from a long line of strong women and how she was not shy about breaking barriers, whether pursuing college studies, forging a career in the nascent field of social work, exposing unsafe, unsanitary working conditions in New York City, or becoming the first woman ever to hold an executive cabinet post. The title refers to her unique status, and the narrative addresses the blatant discrimination she faced throughout her career. Vignettes show how she managed to win over her exclusively male colleagues through her soft but determined manner and sense of humor. Well-chosen quotes appear in oversize, swirling fonts, and the nuanced digital illustrations provide period details. Age-appropriate resources about this remarkable woman are scarce, which is a shame, because Perkins' story is compelling. The book's presentation is appealing, the content is suitable for reading aloud, and the back matter and list of sources will be appreciated by researchers. This is a fitting tribute for an inspirational role model.--Kathleen McBroom Copyright 2019 Booklist