Frances Perkins © Betsy True

Frances Perkins

Betsy True

Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Artist Statement

I’ve long been inspired by Frances Perkins, the first woman in the US Cabinet. When I heard about this exhibition, she was the first person I thought of.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 (New York City), depicted in the background of the piece, was a tragedy that initiated many changes in working conditions. 146 died, mostly young women, many of them immigrants. Doors to the fire escapes were locked to keep the workers in place and so they could not escape and the fire wagon ladders didn’t reach to the top floors. Some jumped out the windows of the building to their deaths. You can see two shadowy figures against the building and one in the next to top floor getting ready to jump.

Frances witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and it inspired her to quit her job as a professor and begin working to improve worker’s lives.

I wanted to give the feel of the black and white pictures of the fire but I also wanted Frances to come alive, so she is shown in color.

Woman’s Groundbreaking Accomplishment

1st Woman Member of the US Cabinet and author of much of FDR’s new Deal.


Fused and machine appliqued using cotton and sheer fabrics. Machine quilted. Details added with pen and ink.


Commercial print cotton fabric and cotton batiks, sheer fabrics, pen and ink.