HELL'S KITCHEN — A pair of political clubs hope to honor the country’s first female cabinet member with a street renaming.
The McManus Midtown Democratic Club and the National Democratic Club plan to apply to co-name West 46th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues after Frances Perkins, club leaders said.
Perkins was a social worker at the Hartley House on West 46th Street toward the start of her career, and her master’s thesis at Columbia University focused on childhood malnutrition among children attending P.S. 51.
She went on to become the longest-serving Secretary of Labor after Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the position in 1933. She played an instrumental role in the creation of New Deal legislation, including the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Frances Perkins was in my opinion — and not just me, I mean a lot of other people’s opinion — the most important woman of the 20th century,” said National Democratic Club co-president James Kaplan.
During her time at Hartley House, Perkins turned to McManus Midtown Democratic Club founder Thomas McManus — who is NDC co-president Mickey Spillane’s great-grandfather — when she needed help keeping a client who’d been arrested out of jail, he said.
Spillane, who is also president of the McManus club, credited Perkins with the rebirth of the country’s labor movement.
“At a time when the Democratic party is struggling for an identity, to look at a woman like Frances Perkins who was really a progressive and believed in a social safety net [shows that] we don’t always have to look forward — we can look backwards and find out what was good about the Democratic party,” he said.
The clubs plan to present their street renaming application to Community Board 4 in the near future, he added.
“She’s a national figure who got her start in Hell’s Kitchen,” Spillane added. “She really is probably the most noteworthy progressive of the 1900s.”