So many changes have been written into Social Security law since its inception. Here we will see mostly the influence Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins made during the New Deal era.
https://ldpd.lamp.columbia.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/perkins There is a collection at their Rare Book & Manuscript Library. A special exhibit will conclude next month.
Born on April 10, 1880 Fannie Coralie Perkins, daughter of a stationer, enrolled in Mount Holyoke in 1898 where she became president of her class. She studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania before taking up a master's course in Economics and Sociology at Columbia. As an undergraduate she was influenced by Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives." At the age of 30 she became Secretary of the New York City Consumers' League. The next year she married a man who worked for a man who became mayor of New York City. They had a daughter, whose son became involved with the Brick House.
The notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 happened in Manhattan on Saturday, March 25. At the time Perkins was across at Washington Square Park and ran over to help. Her career flourished with the rising star of Al Smith, whose Catholicism deterred voters from putting him in the White House, but did allow him to be New York governor from 1918 until 1924. He attempted the US presidency and was defeated. Franklin Roosevelt became New York governor in 1928.
What is curious by modern standards of party politics was how Perkins was able to continue her work in Albany as Industrial Commissioner of New York up until the time of FDR's election to the White House in 1932. Perkins, starting with a social worker background modeled after Jane Adams and Jacob Riis, had the blessing of Theodore Roosevelt who recommended her to Al Smith for a job in Albany. She remained in Albany during Franklin Roosevelt's term and then was appointed for the entire time of FDR's presidency. Always interested in Social Security, she also worked on the evolution of the National Recovery Act, finally declared unconstitutional and later proposed in separate parts. Some important aspects of NRA included the National Labor Relations Board, wage and hours laws, and child labor regulationss. Curiously, the Department of Labor during Perkins' time was responsible for immigration matters. Think Harry Bridges and the connection seems more plausible.
When Harry Truman took charge, he asked his entire cabinet to submit letters of resignation on July 1. Perkins was given to understand she would have another position. During the New Deal, she enjoyed nearly carte blanche on proposed legislation for Social Security. A lot of spade work had been finished. After World War II unions--AFL, CIO and UAW--were surging. Truman appointed her as one of the three Commissioner positions with Civil Service. Finally at the age of 72 and widowed, she returned to a life of writing and teaching. Ultimately she ended up at the well regarded Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations in Ithaca. She lived--still teaching--until 1965.