Book Review: Becoming Madam Secretary

For those who love historical fiction and American politics, I have a new book suggestion for you that releases on March 12, 2024, called Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray.

Publisher: Berkley Publishing


She took on titans, battled generals, and changed the world as we know it…

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray returns with a captivating and dramatic new novel about an American heroine, Frances Perkins.

Raised on tales of her revolutionary ancestors, Frances Perkins arrives in New York City at the turn of the century, armed with her trusty parasol and an unyielding determination to make a difference.

When she’s not working with children in the crowded tenements in Hell’s Kitchen, Frances throws herself into the social scene in Greenwich Village, befriending an eclectic group of politicians, artists, and activists, including the millionaire socialite Mary Harriman Rumsey, the flirtatious budding author Sinclair Lewis, and the brilliant but troubled reformer Paul Wilson, with whom she falls deeply in love.

But when Frances meets a young lawyer named Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a tea dance, sparks fly in all the wrong directions. She thinks he’s a rich, arrogant dilettante who gets by on a handsome face and a famous name. He thinks she’s a priggish bluestocking and insufferable do-gooder. Neither knows it yet, but over the next twenty years, they will form a historic partnership that will carry them both to the White House.

Frances is destined to rise in a political world dominated by men, facing down the Great Depression as FDR’s most trusted lieutenant—even as she struggles to balance the demands of a public career with marriage and motherhood. And when vicious political attacks mount and personal tragedies threaten to derail her ambitions, she must decide what she’s willing to do—and what she’s willing to sacrifice—to save a nation.


In order to understand Social Security, you should go back to its beginnings and why it was created to begin with. Frances Perkins was the woman behind it. She spent many years investigating labor conditions, trying to make things better for everyone. Becoming Madam Secretary dives into her story from her course studies to the honor given to her at the age of 80 by John F. Kennedy.

Perkins is responsible for the end of child labor. She helped change the 54-hour work week. She witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911, which would move her to advocate for fire safety.

But her claim to fame is the Social Security Act.

Today, lawmakers constantly challenge the Social Security Act. But in FDR’s days, the elderly could become homeless and destitute, especially women who were dependent upon men to support them. If their husband died and the money ran out, or if they did not have children to take them in, they would wind up on the streets.

The Social Security Act was meant to protect our elders from that fate, especially if they could not work anymore. Today, we lament paying taxes into the Social Security system, but we should consider how not everyone is able to save money for retirement.

Without Frances Perkins, the SSA never would have happened. She became the first woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet. FDR chose her to become his Secretary of Labor.

This book shares the most amazing things one woman did to change how we work. These are all things the working class takes for granted. One woman did so much to make basic working conditions better for us. She looked for ways to protect us after we could no longer work.

While she was advocating for the working class, she also struggled in her personal life. Her husband suffered from manic depression, so he had to be committed. And later, her daughter would suffer from it.

How she was able to hold it together with so many issues at home while working towards helping all of America is incredible.

For those interested in politics and the conversations happening in Congress to overturn what this one woman did, you should read this book. There is so much to learn about the history of labor and how it changed thanks to Frances Perkins. It may change your mind on how you view certain labor policies today.

Get your copy here: Becoming Madam Secretary.